How Your Actions Reflect Your Heart

I am certain you have heard the saying, “He or she is acting out of character.” Get the picture of a parent being called to school and the principal saying, “Your son has done a terrible thing. He fought with a smaller boy and once he was reported he swore at the prefect.”

The mother stands there gasping because this is not her cute, loving, little son whom she loves and cherishes. He is such a helpful darling at home. Then she confidently says, “That’s not my Johnny. He would never do that!”

The principal repeats, “Madam, your son beat up this small boy and swore at the prefect. We have witnesses.”

Mother then says, “My goodness Johnny, you acted out of character!”

What she means is that Johnny’s conduct does not reflect his true self. To her, he was provoked to do the unthinkable. It’s just not him to do that. He comes from a good family and home. By now, she is trying to cover up possible weaknesses in the home and discipline. The truth is not ‘his conduct does not reflect his true self … his true heart … his true family’, but the other way around! Johnny’s conduct reflects the true condition of his heart! Ouch! How many parents believe their children are angels? “He or she would never ever do such a thing … never in a thousand years!”

Yet the heart is deceptive! Recently we looked at the following passage in Jeremiah:

Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

Are you able to understand the human heart? Are you able to understand your own heart? Why those temper tantrums, those outbursts, that ugly word, the sulking, the jealousy, the covetousness, the revenge … we find our list to be endless! That’s us … but many deny the doctrine of total depravity! By total depravity, we do not mean “utter depravity”, which says that a person is as bad as they could possibly be. As humans, we are enslaved to the evil impulses and desire of our hearts! Our body, mind, will and spirit … our complete being is infected by the power of sin. It is a radical condition … but we are not as bad as we could be!

The heart is certainly corrupt (depraved) and in some cases it is far worse than in others. We often think of the many wars and how people were slaughtered and massacred, maimed and brutalized, raped and tortured. Look at how the depravity of the human heart was expressed in World War II (and the Holocaust); in the evil acts of apartheid; of the revolutionary camps in Angola; in the genocides in Africa and the East; the slavery carried out by the Western, Eastern and African powers of the day; the continued slavery in many countries. As an example … in Mauritania, thousands are in descent-based slavery. Born a slave, literally owned by the master and facing a lifetime of exploitation and abuse. Women are often raped and forced to have children who become slaves.

One article says:

Slavery in the 21st century continues and generates $150bn in annual profits, with the top ten countries with the highest prevalence according to the Global Slavery Index being North Korea, Eritrea, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Afghanistan, Mauritania, South Sudan, Pakistan, Cambodia and Iran.

Another one says:

All forms of modern slavery continue to exist in India, including intergenerational bonded labor, forced child labor, commercial sexual exploitation, forced begging, forced recruitment into non-state armed groups and forced marriage.

The statistics for Libya are equally astounding. Years ago, we visited a “war museum” in Zimbabwe. It was gruesome and horrifying to see the pictures of heaps of dead bodies, many drowned in boiling water or boiling oil!

Why do I expose all these facts? Because throughout the world (including throughout the history of our country) we are exposed to the condition of the human heart! When we think through total depravity in realistic terms and see the radical treatment of one human towards another, we start, in a small way, to understand that passage in Jeremiah.

Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

And yet … the heart of all the above is not as corrupt as it could be! Neither is ours!

Look at this Proverb:

Pr 27:19 As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.

You gaze into the water and you see an almost exact representation of your face. The water might move or have ripples, which cause blurs over the picture, but then it settles and again you see the exact representation of your face. Then you read the Proverb again and think, “Well, I’m not too bad looking … actually I’m pretty or handsome … so maybe like the water giving a nice picture, so my heart gives a nice picture of me!” Wrong! The Proverb says that as the water gives a perfect picture of your face, so the heart gives the perfect picture of your character and conduct! The water gave an exact picture to Hitler of himself, but his heart gave the exact picture of his wicked, evil behaviour as a man.

Was Hitler or any other leader who induced crimes against humanity depraved? Yes … Jesus said that out of the heart the wickedness and evilness and depravity comes. Their deeds exposed their hearts! But they were once cute cuddly babies. So was the rapist, murderer, thief, adulterer, liar … and it is for this very reason that it is paramount that we search our hearts to see what dwells there … maybe silently, waiting for an opportunity to expose itself! Just because we express love, tenderness and kindness to our fellow humans today is no guarantee we will do it tomorrow! Let God examine your heart through the pages of Scripture!

Dear God, search me and know me, expose me and cleanse me, revive and renew me, fashion me in Christ. Amen.

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