Hebrews 3:15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts….
As I was thinking about what I was going to write and praying and seeking God’s face for guidance, I kept hearing this passage of scripture repeated in my spirit. As it echoed in my mind I was thinking, “Okay, God, there’s the usual concept we hear in church that to not harden our hearts implies we should not become offended at having our shortcomings pointed out and scuff at the need of bettering our dispositions in the name of becoming better Christians. Right?” God gently prompted my one-track brain to consider that the passage might in fact imply something entirely different. As He highlighted the phrase hear my voice to me, I asked Him again what the significance of the phrase was. God reminded me of how often when I speak to people and feel a certain conflicted way in their presence that the feeling was not necessarily in line with His heart and thoughts, but a reflection of my own opinions and assumptions. When I am in a conversation with someone with whom I do not agree my heart instantly says “close up, protect yourself,” and I come up with a myriad of reasons why this person’s ideas are inferior and not worth my time; I start contemplating what they could have done that might suggest that they are in fact a lesser person compared to me. I immediately harden my heart and build up a wall in order to protect myself.
The reason we tend to close up our hearts is a result of fear of getting hurt. Sometimes it’s literally just out of dread that our pride would get hurt, and our ego’s dented. We think ‘’What am I going to have to do when you start saying something opposite to me? What will I say when we don’t agree, when our opinions are contradictory and your idea threatens my well thought out concept? Because, you know, if I have to defend my point view there will have to be the big C…confrontation… So, it is, in fact, way more comfortable and a lot easier and feels safer to just break you down in my mind. That way we don’t have to argue or even differ, I can simply walk away and leave you thinking you were regarded, while I feel better about myself for mustering the “self-control” to not say anything. Seeing as your opinions now have no authority or bearing on my ideas, as a consequence of me having ascertained that you are in fact inferior, I do not have to feel guilty.”
A quote from Keeping Your Love On, by Danny Silk, “Most often in communication, the goal is agreement. But if our goal is agreement, then what happens when we disagree? I must persuade you to agree with me, or vice versa. But unfortunately, persuasion has a way of slipping into pressure, manipulation, and control. The priority of agreement demands that there really can’t be two different people in the conversation – there can only be one. The longer you refuse to respond to my efforts to convince you to agree with me, the more anxiety grows in conversation. Before long, the battle lines are drawn and we are allowing our need to be right to overtake our need to protect our connection. The conversation becomes a fight over which one of us has the right perception, the right answer, or the right decision.”
God pointed out to me that the reason we struggle to maintain connection is because our motives for loving people are not necessarily of the noblest kind. We tend to have conversations with the aim of either being validated ourselves, or in an attempt to bring about change in the person on the receiving end of the conversation, of proving how right we are and validating this point by pointing out someone else’s wrongs. You are wrong, which goes to show I am right. Only, when this fails to happen we walk away disgruntled and disappointed with the other person. Our hearts become hardened and offended because of unmet expectations and disappointment in man’s inability to understand and acknowledge our needs and intentions. Sometimes we discern another’s mistakes and shortcomings and without being led by His heart and love we try and encourage them to change and become better by our standards (that we found in the Bible, nonetheless). The problem with feeling the other person is wrong is that it causes us to devalue their feelings and intentions. We get frustrated when they continue on their doomed path of self-destruction, heading straight for failure and most certain ungodliness and disappointment. Ok, that might be a bit of an over exaggeration, but you see my point…. It is only the goodness of God that can lead any one person to repentance. It can only happen when we approach people with the love of God, and let me just say, the love of God in your heart will not allow you the desire to “fix” people but to love them just as they are. As soon as you become agitated by someone else’s behaviour and feel the need to fix them, you can be sure that your own pride is at work and that whatever wrong you feel they are committing is merely a result of your preconceived ideas of what their behaviour should be looking like. That would be a good time to revise your intentions and get back to establishing a connection. We tend to subconsciously feel entitled to be treated a certain manner, and that people in our immediate presence should be acting a certain way. It is almost as if their behaviour becomes a reflection of our stature and status. For example, I recently experienced a situation where a lady walked out on a relationship due to the fact that she didn’t want to be associated with the other person because they were in her opinion a “bad” Christian and it tainted her reputation and threatened her good nature to be around this person. This is a good example of feeling entitled.
We cannot allow ourselves to become fixated on fixing people, or trying to influence them for the better. We cannot allow ourselves to buy into the lie that anyone has less value or worth than ourselves. We cannot allow our hearts to become hardened towards people, but need to heed the voice of God and hear what He is saying about them. The price Jesus paid for a friend was as high as it was for you; it was the very same price at the very same value. That is the heart of the Father. There is no such a thing as a “bad” Christian.