Matters of the Heart
He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ (Mark 7:6–7)
Jesus was a religious rule breaker. He regularly broke the norms and traditions found at the very heart of the religion of his people. He did this, not because he was a rebel or rabble-rouser, as some considered him to be, but because he realized the rottenness of a religion rooted in rigid doctrinal exactness rather than the more personal and inner matters of the heart.
Jesus realized the rottenness of a religion rooted in doctrinal exactness rather than the more personal and inner matters of the heart.
During my thirty-six years as a pastor, I found myself transitioning from a teaching ministry that emphasized “believing the right things” to one that encouraged cultivating a right heart. It is vital that we, as followers of Jesus, understand that it is possible to be right in our doctrine and wrong in our hearts. A faith grounded in creeds, dogmas, and traditions risks the very thing of which Jesus accused the religious leaders in his day — lips that honor God but hearts that dishonor Him.
A faith grounded in creeds, dogmas, and traditions risks the very thing of which Jesus accused the religious leaders in his day — lips that honor God but hearts that dishonor Him.
The question each one of us must answer is this: What is my primary calling as a follower of Jesus? Fortunately, we don’t need to look far for the answer. When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus said it was to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And then he added a second, which he said was inseparably connected to the first — to love others as we love ourselves. The entire teaching of our Bible is fulfilled in these two things.
Let me put it another way. The i’s that need dotting and the t’s that need crossing are found in our relationships, not our doctrines.
“But isn’t it possible to do both, Dan?” “Aren’t you downplaying the importance of our doctrines and beliefs?”
For the answer to those questions, we need look no further than the apostle Paul, who taught that an emphasis on knowledge leads to puffed-up prideful lives, while the priority of love builds up and encourages others. (See I Cor. 8:1)
And speaking for all of us, Paul says, “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (I Cor. 13:12) Do you see it in this verse, the distinction between the doctrinal and the relational? “I am fully known” refers to the deepest inner workings of our hearts and not the correctness of our understanding or beliefs.
Yes, Jesus was clearly a religious-rule breaker, and we could stand more rule breakers, like Jesus, in the church today.