But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. (Matthew 15:18-20)
When we talk about affairs of the heart, we often have in mind our emotional life. The sort of things which can result in bunches of roses or heartbreak. Something which is heartwarming gives you an emotional lift, and when your heartstrings are tugged you feel a yearning.
When you look at the list that Jesus gives, though, you quickly sense that ‘heart’ had a different meaning in the ancient world! Back then, the heart was understood as the core of your personality and your will. It’s the centre of who you were, and your internal life: thoughts as well as emotions.
What Jesus highlights here is that, essentially, we live from the inside out. Our actions begin in our hearts, and reflect what is going on inside. He understands that if we ever want to bring about a real change, we need to start with the heart. It is not enough just to put in place rules to try and manage our behaviour, something deeper is needed.
The Christian experience is nothing less than a restoration of our hearts, such that we can “love the Lord our God with all our heart…”. The patient practice of prayer, Bible reading and self-denial slowly re-work our hearts and line up our will with God’s. It is allowing Christ to take root deep within, which is why Paul can write: ”I am crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20).
So the question is: how is your heart?