The Storyteller – Unshaken Hearts
When I first accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour I was very passionate about Him and His Kingdom. I wanted to learn more and more about Him, so I would go over to the church where I got saved almost every day. On some of these days there were no meetings but I would still go and have a talk with the caretaker, who was the only one there. He wasn’t a preacher, teacher or my mentor, but I wanted to speak with anyone who could tell me about Jesus so I could learn more about Him and His Kingdom.
Rivalry between Church Sisters
One day he told me a story that I would never forget. He told me of two ladies who attended the church of which he was a member for years before. These two ladies were bitter rivals to the point where their differences were now spilling over into the rest of the congregation and affecting others. The pastor of the church, seeing the need to put this thing to an end met with them and played the part of a mediator. He heard both sides, thrashed it out between them and brought a resolve, or so he thought. Because their differences had affected the whole church and threatened division he thought it a good idea to have both ladies come in a member’s meeting and openly show that they are now in agreement.
Most attended the members meeting on the set night, including my caretaker friend, Mr. Bell. After a brief talk from the pastor, the two ladies were called up to shake hands in agreement before everyone. These ladies, who could not agree before, came forward and with wide smiles shook hands with each other. Something was not right however, and only the wise discerners could pick up on it. A church brother and good friend of Mr. Bell, who was sitting next to him, leaned over and whispered this to him. “They have shaken hands but their hearts remain unshaken.” His observation turned out to be true. These ladies had put on an act for all to see, but their hearts were unchanged.
Mr. Bell, the caretaker of the church, taught me a lesson that many fail understand. We judge and honour people based on things like their education, social status, spirituality and wealth, but not according to their hearts.
God goes deeper
A most profound statement was made by God in 1 Samuel 16:7, “Samuel, don’t think Eliab is the one just because he’s tall and handsome. He isn’t the one I’ve chosen. People judge others by what they look like, but I judge people by what is in their hearts.”
This is the very essence of Jesus’ message. Jesus taught the new and better way of the New Covenant, He removes the emphasis from outward performance to inward transformation. “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28 (NKJV)) Jesus shone the spotlight deep within the dark souls of men so that we could realise that we are all adulterers and murderers even though some of us have not yet physically carried out the act. Our true personality is revealed in the meditations of our hearts even though we may put on a show for others.
Jesus during His nine woes exclaimed, Matthew 23:25-28 “You Pharisees and teachers are show-offs, and you’re in for trouble! You wash the outside of your cups and dishes, while inside there is nothing but greed and selfishness. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of a cup, and then the outside will also be clean. You Pharisees and teachers are in for trouble! You’re nothing but show-offs. You’re like tombs that have been whitewashed. On the outside they are beautiful, but inside they are full of bones and filth. That’s what you are like. Outside you look good, but inside you are evil and only pretend to be good.”
Jesus’ analogy of the dirty cup teaches us that the Christ life must flow from the inside out, i.e. we live from our hearts. If our heart is clean, our actions will also become clean. If however, our heart is nasty, eventually its true state will be manifested, even though for a time, we may successfully mask it with good works .
Jesus was hated for saying these things but He continued to speak them boldly and with much authority because He knew He was speaking the truth. He understood that God was not impressed with outward performance but was looking on our hearts. Prophets of old perceived this, as we can see from Joel’s demand for true repentance.
Joel 2:13 “Don’t rip your clothes to show your sorrow. Instead, turn back to me with broken hearts…” In those days people would tear their clothes as a sign of their grief and sorrow. However, very often the tearing of the cloths was not a true reflection of what was happening in their hearts. This is why Joel, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, insisted that their repentance come from a truly broken and torn heart and not just be an outward show.
The way to please you [God] is to feel sorrow deep in our hearts. This is the kind of sacrifice you won’t refuse. (Psalm 51:17)