I was quite excited the other day when our 20 year old daughter connected her i-phone to my car stereo and played song after song from bands I grew up with, including the Eagles. The group certainly was filled to the brim with extraordinary talent, including Don Henley. On one of his solo albums, he worked with Mike Campbell and JD Souther and together they wrote the song, “The Heart of the Matter.”
It is a beautiful song about love lost, the pain a relationship can bring, and how moving on can be a challenge. Here are just part of the lyrics. “I’ve been trying to get down to the heart of the matter. But my will gets weak and my thoughts seem to scatter. But I think it is about forgiveness.”
While forgiveness certainly is central to our walk with Jesus, the line, “I’ve been trying to get down to the heart of the matter,” caused me to pause and in fact think about Jesus and his life. Upon reflection, it seems that Jesus spent much of his time compelling people to go deep, down deep inside, in order to explore motives for taking or not taking certain actions. Motives for taking a position or not. Motives for a decision.
Just some of the questions Jesus asked those around him include, “Why would you not want to heal a person just because it is the Sabbath Day? Why would you want to stone the woman when you yourself fall short every day? Why are you so concerned about the words of what a law says more than the intent of the law? Why are you afraid? Why do you think some people are more important to God than others?”
In addition to these and hundreds of other questions Jesus asked his ultimate question. In essence he asked people, “What is the heart of the matter? In other words, what really is this all about? What is driving you? Where is your heart in all of this?”
As I think about my own actions, inactions, words spoken and words withheld during this time of vast upheaval in our country and world, I feel compelled to ask myself, “What is the heart of this or that matter for me? Where is my heart?”
In asking such questions, I realized that some of what I have done or not done, said or not said is based upon my heart being in the right place. A heart filled with love. That said, I have also recognized that some of my actions and words have come from a place not of love. A place where there is fear and a need for control or power. A place where I like being right. A place where what I like and am used to is at the forefront. A place in which I am in charge.
But Jesus was crystal clear. The heart of the matter needs to be love. Love of God. Love of others. Love of ourselves. Love drives forgiveness, selflessness, humility, flexibility, empathy, compassion, the ability to listen to vastly different perspectives, intimacy with God, and an openness to the movement of God within our lives.
So I invite you to join me in spending some time pondering our actions and words and feelings as of late. Where are they coming from? What is the heart of the matter? How much does love have to do with it? I am confident that when we take the time to reflect in such a way, we will find burdens lifting, replaced by God’s peace that passes all understanding, for God is love.