You also be open. — 2 Corinthians 6: 13
In an open heart there is a lot of room for God and our neighbour.
In answer to the question of how it looks when a person models his life on the gospel, the gospel itself gives an abundance of answers, for example in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7).
Whether or not a person lives the gospel can be recognized in their deeds. These deeds are preceded by something else, however, namely by a thought, a decision, which involves both heart and reason. In order to live in accordance with the gospel, a change must first of all take place within a human being. This is described as follows in the second letter to the Corinthians, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5: 17).
The emergence and development of the new creation is not concluded with the rebirth out of water and the Holy Spirit, however. This is merely the start of an ongoing development (Ephesians 4: 22–24): a result of this inner renewal is that the heart becomes open for God and one’s neighbour.
A blind heart versus an open heart
We can get an idea of what this open heart looks like by comparing it to the blind heart mentioned in Ephesians 4: 18. Such a heart is characterized by:
- Calculation. “What do I get out of it?” An open heart simply gives on the basis of pure love.“Why are things going better for them than for me? Have they done anything to deserve this?” The new creation does not engage in envy or petty calculations such as this, but is happy with others over the gifts God grants them.
- Narrow-mindedness. With such an attitude there is little room for one’s neighbour, and only limited understanding for his idiosyncrasies. A generous heart even makes room for the stranger and treats him with understanding and love.
- Ruthlessness. Ruthless people apply strict standards and see every splinter in the eye of their neighbour. The nature of the new creation distinguishes itself by its magnanimity and forbearance.
- Fixation on appearance. Here one judges others by their appearance; by the way they present Someone whose heart is wide, who is magnanimous, does not reduce the neighbour to appearances.
With an open heart we can contribute in creating understanding, magnanimity, and loving relationships in our surroundings.
We read in Scripture that Isaac’s shepherds ran into confrontations with other shepherds on two occasions as they constructed their well. When Isaac then began digging a third well, over which they did not quarrel, he called it Rehoboth, which literally translates to mean “spaciousness”, and said, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land” (Genesis 26: 22).
Let us likewise be such “wellbuilders”, and not rest until we have established the necessary room in our families, in our congregations, and in our workplaces. Thereby we bear witness that modelling our lives on the gospel creates a broad space in which we can live, and in which growth and development are possible.
* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for the divine service held on Sunday, 19 July 2015 at Midrand Congregation.