A heart that’s right in the sight of God

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“Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter, for thy heart is not right in the sight of God,” said Peter to Simon Magus (Acts 8:21) in a rebuke that, happily, triggered Simon’s repentance. The original Greek for “heart right in the sight of God” is kardia eutheia enanti tou theou, and the word here translated as “right,” eutheia, is more properly translated “straight.” Its adverbial forms eutheōs and euthys convey the notion of an immediate consequence, as when Jesus performs a healing in the Gospel of Mark and eutheōs, “straightway,” the hemorrhage stops, the damsel rises from the dead, or the deaf man’s ears are opened. A heart “straight” in this sense would answer the Holy Spirit’s promptings straightway.

I went to bed last night thinking that a heart that’s right in the sight of God is the most precious thing I could ask for.  This morning I read, somewhere in the Philokalia, that it’s more to be desired than the joys of Heaven, because if my heart were not right, and steadfastly so, I’d go plummeting from Paradise just as Adam, Eve and Satan did. O Lord, make my heart steadfast and keep it steadfast, in Jesus’ name. I feel it wavering from steadfastness every time I’m tempted to say something hurtful in anger or take pleasure in someone else’s real or imagined pain. I want a straight heart that stays straight, fit always to stand in Your holy, enlightening and all-healing Presence until I’m absorbed back into Your Unity. And since I believe that this is what You intend for me and for all living creatures that I love, I thank You now and always for our salvation; Amen.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a Friend who was concerned that our Friends’ meeting, and maybe the whole Religious Society of Friends, was a “declining institution.” He shared with me a letter he’d gotten last year from another Friend who’d left our meeting in deep disappointment over our members’ behavior. Mention of the often inane and ego-driven messages we hear in meeting for worship made my anger rise, and I imagined raging at the meeting that those who were breaking the silence with junk ministry were damnable blasphemers, defiling their neighbors’ attempts to have communion with God with their narcissistic insistence on getting others’ attention on their own selfish thoughts! And  so on and on. I rolled Ezekiel 16:63 around in my mouth like a delicious throat-lozenge of fire. And the day before that, I’d had a conversation with a young man who’d withdrawn his interest in becoming a member because of our “disorganization.” Don’t get me started on others’ failures to be organized! I hear my late father’s voice echoing in the back of my heart: “When are you going to get organized!?” How intolerant of others my own shame can make me!

And then this morning, as I prayed for a heart that’s right in the sight of God, it came to me that I was praying alongside countless others who were praying to God for the same thing, many in tears, many with hearts purer than my own. It also came to me to tell my Friend that it didn’t matter whether we were a declining institution or a thriving institution, the only real question was whether he wanted a heart that’s right in the sight of God; and if he did, he’d find at least one other person at our meeting that wanted the same thing, and who would pray for his steadfastness in wanting it, and would commit to encouraging him to persevere. But then, he might find that somewhere else, too. The Holy Spirit would tell him where to go on Sunday mornings, and I hope, of course, that he’d go there straightway.

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