Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hearts of Stone, Hearts of Flesh

"I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God." Ezekiel 11:19-20

There are few things more difficult than loving someone who is filled with hate. Hatred is such a cold, hard thing. Like a stone. Often, we can tell when people are trapped in hate just by spending a few moments with them. They are like granite, harsh, even sharp. Graceless, angry, bitter, sour, frigid. There is the feeling that if we bumped up against them, it would hurt. Even a mistake would earn us retaliation. Cold words. A heartless rebuke. Sarcasm. Ridicule. Disdain. God help us if we ever sin against a person filled with hate. Forgiveness does not seem like an option.

I think the most distressing thing about loving someone like this is the fear that nothing could every break through the steely armor that has been built around them. It feels as if we will never be able to touch their hearts, to move them to softness, compassion. The fact is, it is entirely possible that we will never be able to penetrate the fortress of their hatred. Hearts of stone are notoriously difficult to move.

Thankfully, God is in the habit of changing hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. Gentleness, kindness, compassion and love can be restored. Yes, it is a choice, but there is a price to be paid for choosing a heart of stone. God graciously sees to it that the pain of a cold heart is deeply felt. Hateful people are not happy people. Behind the clenched teeth and steely eyes lies a deep well of pain and torment, loneliness and longing. God gives every incentive and every opportunity to seek change. We can trust Him, and rest in His willingness and ability to work in the hearts of those we love.

There are few things more difficult than loving someone who is filled with hate. Still, with God's Spirit within us, with His love, wisdom and patience, difficult things become possibilities.

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