In a facebook post yesterday my friend and preaching colleague, Doy Moyer opined that “Changing hearts is greater than changing laws, for when hearts are changed for the good, the laws won’t even be necessary.”
In the aftermath of continued gun violence in general and another school shooting in particular, cries are coming to “do something!” There is pressure on lawmakers to pass more gun laws to “keep this from ever happening again.”
However, as Doy correctly observes “What is troubling today is that there seems to be little attention paid to the heart or the mind, especially in comparison to how much discussion is given to political matters. We discuss laws. Debates are focused on what laws need to be passed, but are we seeking to change hearts? The cart is before that horse.”
Indeed it is.
The Psalmist spoke of those “who plan evil things in their hearts” (Ps 140:2). The ancient Preacher saw evil that all around him and concluded that there was “a madness in their hearts” (Eccl. 9:3). In Jeremiah’s day, people rejected his preaching, served other gods and refused to turn from their “wicked ways.” Why? Because they were “evil” and followed “the dictates of their hearts” (Jer 13:10).
The wise man wrote, “Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil” (Prov. 12:20). Jesus Himself said, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matt 15:19).
So, laws are enacted to set boundaries, curb improper behavior, and maintain societal order. The Bible says, “that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane…” (1 Tim. 1:9). Yet, people whose heart is set to do evil, will still break the law.
It is tempting for us, this writer included, to blame the evil in our culture on filthy movies, salacious literature, internet ungodliness and a media that seems to promote it. Yet, before any of these, in the days of the Judges “every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Jud. 21:25). As a result, there was rape, murder, incest and every form of wickedness imaginable. And some that are not. The problem? Evil hearts.
The solution is found in changing hearts in order to change lives. But before we seek to change the world, we must begin with ourselves. Our hearts. Our homes. Our churches. Our communities. Our workplace. Our own little circle of influence.
It begins with loving God with all our heart, soul and mind. And follows by loving my neighbor as myself. It is what Jesus called the two greatest commandments (Matt. 22:37-40). A heart directed with this kind of motivation issues itself in nobler actions, kinder deeds, and unselfish service.
The wise man’s counsel “Guard your heart with all diligence for out of it spring the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23) would serve to curb evil desires, unholy attitudes, and ungodly actions.
Fighting in the family, contention in churches, discord among neighbors and violence in our culture could be greatly minimized, even eliminated, by each person focusing on the health of their own spiritual heart.
The qualities of “the fruit of the spirit–“love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” are developed and driven by a good and godly heart. But they are the result of denying self. Crucifying sinful passions. And seeking divine virtues.
While it is frustrating, discouraging and heartbreaking to see the effects of evil in our society, the true solutions are inward, not outward.
The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. “Lord, let change begin with me.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman