Updated: Nov 26, 2020
Oprah Winfrey popularized the slogan, “Follow your heart.” It sounds so romantic, inspirational, American and even Christian. But should Christians always follow their heart?
Christians should always follow God. Our hearts cannot always be trusted. Os Guiness gives us this great word picture I often use with the men I mentor. “A compass is only accurate in pointing us north because the magnetic needle is attracted to massive iron deposits in Northern Canada. If I put a large chunk of iron in my backpack and I then tried to use my compass, it would point back to me, or to the pack on my back. I would no longer be able to use that compass to find my way back home, because my foolish decision has rendered my compass useless. I replaced ‘true north.’
If I always followed my heart, I might have walked away from my marriage years ago, made many foolish personal and business choices, never sold my business to do ministry, or would never even have tried to love people who I know didn’t like me. Yes, following your heart generally works when our motives are good, true and noble. But sometimes Christians who like to think themselves to be loving, refuse to recognize their own sin, or to call it out in people closest to them because they are following their heart. I’ve talked to dozens of men and women who, because they followed their heart, have walked out on their families, for a new love.”
“The heart is deceitful above all things…” Jeremiah 17:9a
The Bible is the Christian’s only reliable moral compass. That’s why reading, studying and meditating on scripture is critical for every would-be follower of Jesus. When we “download” truth into our minds, the Holy Spirit like a spiritual search engine, brings those teachings to our mind, just when we need them, and sometimes even when we’re trying to ignore them!
But, Christians have another important resource as well. We have each other. There are times my heart has told me what I ought to do. But when I have consulted with mature Christians, they questioned my decision, based on scripture and gave me a different perspective.
The primary problem with following your heart is this: we usually have a path we’d prefer, even though it may be disobedient. But we humans are clever sinners. Without scriptures and godly counsel, we can talk ourselves into anything if we want it bad enough. I’ve actually had people cheating on their spouses tell me that, “God gave me this man as a reward for 17 years of a loveless marriage.”
We can shake our heads in disgust over that kind of logic, but many of us have made an expensive purchase we really didn’t need but somehow justified, or refused to forgive someone who hurts us deeply, using the same logic. We’ve occasionally said ugly, hurtful things to others and justified it as a much needed correction.
So, right now, is there a course of action you are contemplating taking that is being driven by your heart, but in conflict with the Word of God?
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” Matthew 15:19
I’ve had people push back on my “don’t always trust your heart” teaching. “When we’re generous, or kind, isn’t that following your heart?” they ask. No, God commands us to do those things whether our heart is fully committed or not. The heart is not to be trusted entirely. But trusting in God even when it makes no sense has rarely proven wrong.
How following Jesus works in real life.
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