Why do we do the things we do? Why do we get angry, frustrated, irritable and depressed? Why do we lie, steal, fight and gossip? Why do we worry about what people think? Where do evil thoughts come from?
Jesus gives the answer: '...from within, out of a person's heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and foolishness…' [Mark 7v21]. According to the Bible, the source of all human behaviour and emotions is the 'heart' – not the organ that pumps blood around your body, but the inner core of your being, your 'self'. Proverbs 27v19 says, 'As water reflects a face, so a woman's heart reflects the woman.'
So the root cause of my behaviour is always my heart. Jesus says, 'No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognised by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.' [Luke 6v43].
This means our struggles and temptations are not the cause of our behaviour. They simply expose what is in my heart and what my heart is like. So we can never blame our circumstances for the way we behave. The fault lies in our own hearts. In the same way that a weakness in a metal bar is only exposed when it is put under pressure – and then it snaps – so it is with our hearts. We may seem half-decent people on the outside when things are easygoing, but when we are put under pressure or stress the fault in us is exposed. So we can't blame our circumstances, or our upbringing, or our hormones, or anything or anyone outside of ourselves. The fault lies in us. The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart.
Thank God that there is hope for us. First, we see in Jesus, the Son of God, a human being with a faultless heart. As you listen to him and watch him, at times under incredible pressure, he remains faultless in what he says and does. Secondly, God promises to change our hearts to be like the heart of Jesus when we put our faith in him. '..I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you…' [Ezekiel 36v25]
This 'faith' requires us to accept God's diagnosis of our problem, and for us to accept the blame for all our negative attitudes and emotions, and all our bad behaviour and speech. It requires us to stop blaming other people or our circumstances, but rather to ask God for his forgiveness and to create a new heart in us. It's at that point he gets to work on us on the inside, and we begin to experience real and lasting change, slowly but steadily reflecting the beautiful character of his Son Jesus in our lives.
Vicar – St George's