Opening our hearts to God, post 1

Marcus Borg is a notoriously liberal theologian (he has been one of the champions of the Jesus Seminar), but I just finished reading his book The Heart of Christianity, and I found one chapter particularly helpful. I want to write a couple or three posts about what I found.

The chapter is about opening our hearts to God.
The heart is an image for the self at a deep level, deeper than our perception, intellect, emotion, and volition. As the spiritual center of the total self, it affects all of these: our sight, thought, feelings, and will. (Borg, p. 151) 
In this light, David's prayer, "Create in me a clean heart, O God" takes on new meaning. David is asking for a complete renovation of himself in God's hands.

Borg observes that our hearts can either be open to God or closed to God.
The condition of the heart matters. The heart, the self at its deepest level, can be turned toward God or away from God, open to God or closed to God. But its typical condition is that it is turned away from God and closed. (151)
Only the Holy Spirit can open our hearts to God, but we can do things to help the process, and that is what this chapter of Borg's book is about. What are the marks of a closed heart?

  • Blindness and limited vision -- "Enclosed in our own world, we neither see nor hear very well."
  • Self-deception -- Our hearts can lead us to rationalize all sorts of hurtful courses of thought and action.
  • Bondage -- We can be in bondage to the desires of our own hearts.
  • Lacking gratitude -- "If successful in life, a person with a closed heart often feels self-made and entitled; or if life has gone badly, bitter and cheated. But gratitude is far from it."
  • Insensitive to wonder and awe -- "The world looks ordinary when our hearts are closed."
  • Forgetful of God -- A closed heart loses track of God's mystery all around us.
  • Self-preoccupied and disconnected -- The closed heart is turned inward on itself and shut off from larger realities all around us.
  • Lacking compassion -- A closed heart does not feel deeply for other people. "Though it can be charitable, it does not feel the suffering of others."
  • Insensitive to injustice -- "Closed hearts and injustice go together."
The closed heart is all too familiar, but it is not a pretty sight. I don't know about you, but I want to have an open heart. What are the marks of an open heart? Simply go back through the list and reverse each characteristic. For instance, an open heart has vision to see what is going on in the world around us. An open heart loves the truth and does not rationalize hurtful courses of thought and action. And so on.

Let's let David's prayer inspire us. "Create in me a clean heart, O God. Open my heart. I don't want it to be even the slightest bit closed!"

More to come...


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