As apologists, we defend the faith against everything that goes against the Christian faith. It is easy to think of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, and even Buddhists and Eastern religions, and even Islam and Judaism. All of these have a focus pointing outward. What about inward?
I’m sure you have all heard the teaching that when you point at someone you have three fingers pointing back at you. In other words, it is saying look who’s talking.
Many of us are able to diffuse arguments against Christianity, such as from atheism, etc., and having a degree in apologetics, I have seen how it really helps with confidence in sharing the faith and how it organized my thoughts when discussing religion and spirituality with people, but what about when it comes to me? Do I have the right answers? The right heart?
I look at a couple verses in the Bible mentioning the condition of the heart, and it makes me wonder about my own.
Proverbs 4:23 says,
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
Further along in the Bible, we find in Jeremiah 17:9,
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”
I don’t believe this is some contradiction that exists in the Bible, because these are both saying the same thing essentially. These verses are saying that the heart of a person is something that requires a lot of attention because of how desperate and quick it is to move or to be moved.
The heart seems to be a severely fragile thing that all of us have to continually keep in check. I think that this is especially so for apologists.
James 3:1 teaches us that “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” This should be a little concerning if nothing else. It is essentially what apologists are doing when they are defending the faith. We are teaching people the truth. We are redirecting people toward what is correct. Because of such, we better know what we are talking about.
Make sure you have it right, but also, make sure your own heart is in the right place. Prayer is one of our greatest allies, but there is another ally that we might not think about so easily, which is reflection. Ask yourself a question such as, “Am I being gentle and respectful in this conversation/debate? (1 Peter 3:16-17). Am I prepared to correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction?” (2 Timothy 4:2). The list goes on.
Sometimes we forget that enemies of the truth have hearts as well, but they might simply be using them incorrectly. What I mean is that we make our adversaries out to be monsters and villains, not a lost soul who has his own problems in his world, and who loves his mother. It is good to be careful not to treat those who oppose the gospel as if they are not human. All human beings have hearts, and therefore, contain something fragile, something vulnerable. Jesus knew this. Why do you think that He was so loving and gentle with people? Take the woman at the well, for instance, in John 4.
In reflection of my own past, even at my furthest distance from God (James 4:7-8), I can still look back and see that my heart was alive and ready to move.
These below are a few stanzas from a poem I wrote over a decade ago:
Push harder; this great knife into my chest.
Finish it! Let my drained soul finally find rest.
Why must I see you through sparkling glass?
(I thought I found her, my beauty, at last!)
Nestled neatly in the blanket of my heart,
The blade comfortably sits, slowly cutting me apart.
It is clear that my heart was not in the right place. I would even go as far as calling this idolatry. But look at how my heart was clearly unshielded. How did I let a knife get there in the first place?!
The reason people cannot understand the heart is because we often let it rule our minds instead of the other way around. The mind is the guide for the heart (or the guard in Proverbs 4:23 above). The heart is what moves us, but our minds put a leash on our hearts. I don’t think that just because we are apologists that we are excused from only using our minds. Therefore it seems good for us to reflect immediately on our motives in the heat of the moment. Even in our lowest state, we still find that our heart is ready to move. Apologists are vulnerable as well, even if we hate to admit it. Protect your heart because it is vulnerable.
Stay diligent in your studies. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:36). “The harvest is plenty but the [qualified] workers are few” (Matthew 9:37). Be encouraged and stand firm in the faith (1 Corinthians 16:13). Do these things because the chaotic world needs not only a form of stability, but also because everyone needs Jesus. You’re in my prayers, my friends.
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth” –2 Timothy 2:15
Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus