Once again, our English words seem to fail to explain the many nuances that our Hebrew and Greek scriptures express. Even in our own culture we use the word ‘heart’ with different meanings in different situations. Is it a muscular blood-pump? A mystical crucible for holding warm-fuzzies? The central pith of a tree or artichoke? I can even ‘heart NY’. Yet what does God mean when the scriptures refer to the heart? According to ‘thefreedictionary.com’ there are 11 major definitions of ‘heart’, though 2 of them relate to games. To help reduce the confusion we can condense the list to just 4. These are:
- The muscular blood-pump of your anatomy;
- The core, or central essence, of the subject (whether of yourself, a tree, a nation, or subject matter);
- An emotional sense of sympathy, generosity, compassion, affection or love;
- The strength of conviction, fortitude, courage, or firmness of will.
Do we see any of these ‘hearts’ in scripture? Yes, all of them. Of the 927 ‘hearts’ in the NKJV Bible, the overwhelming majority relate to item 2 above, though items 3 and 4 receive considerable mention as well. When referring to the core essence of a person, we are taking into account primarily their mental convictions. Take for example the popular song below taken from Ephesians 1:18:
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You
I want to see You
To see You high and lifted up
Shinin’ in the light of Your glory
Pour out Your power and love
As we sing holy, holy, holy
(Paul Baloche 1998 – Open the Eyes of My Heart)
So what does it mean to ‘open the eyes of your heart’? In this verse some translations render ‘heart’ as ‘understanding’, and this perhaps encapsulates better the cry of St Paul. For our ‘understanding’ is dependent on knowledge, belief and trust. These are attributes of our minds – our thinking. We speak of people being ‘open’ or ‘closed’ minded, thus describing them as being either accepting or not of new ideas. That is what St Paul wants for us – to be open-minded about the “the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power” (Ephesians 1:18b-19). No longer be closed-minded to your true divine nature as resurrected by Christ Jesus. And from Ephesians 5:14, “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” Or as St Paul says in Romans 12:2, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind”.
Christianity is not about doing church so as to raise our warm-fuzzies, or to add to our sense of failure, nor even to participate in ‘sacred’ rites. Christianity is, having opened our understanding, that we are integrated with the Divinity, co-ruling, not subject to the captivity of our physicality. Only then can we truly express sympathy, generosity, compassion, affection or love to others (3), and in times of trials and tribulations, have the strength of conviction, fortitude, courage, or firmness of will (4). You will stand fast ‘like a tree planted by the water’, and even the joy which will permeate your being will bring health to your heart (1).