2 Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. 3 I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. 4 I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds. 5 For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn– conflicts on the outside, fears within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.
My heart is who I am. The word “heart” is used over and over is scripture to describe the center of a person, the place in us that feels and decides. Our values reside in our hearts. Paul is clear that relationship reside in our hearts. I have been unable to think of anything in the physical world that provides an analogy to the function and operation of the heart. There are many similarities between computers and the analytic processes in our brain. Unfortunately, thinking and knowledge are not the key to becoming more like Jesus.
To help make that point take a look at the 10 commandments. This list is part of Grandma’s lesson series on the 10 commandments and can be found here.
1. Put God first
2. Do not worship idols
3. Respect God’s name – Do not use God’s name in vain
4. Take a day off – honor the Sabbath
5. Honor your Father and Mother
6. Honor life – do not murder
7. Learn to love – do not commit adultery
8. Learn to give – do not steal
9. Tell the truth – do not lie
10. Trust God – do not covet
We put great focus on increasing knowledge in our discipleship programs. I do not see an increase in knowledge helping in any way to increase our ability to practice these commandments. God’s commandments are all about the condition of our heart. This is what the Pharisees missed. They had memorized the Torah, the first five books of our Old Testament, and they had memorized the Talmud, the commentary that explains the Torah. All this knowledge had hardened their hearts toward God and people. They did not need more knowledge. They needed a change of heart.
Paul does not ask the congregation in Corinth to think about him more. He asks them to place their relationship with him at the center of their being. He says, “Make room for us in your hearts.” The isolation that has been a part of our world’s response to the pandemic has revealed to me what is in my heart. I pray regularly for the people that I have made room for in my heart. These are the people I will fight to remain connected to even when we are physically distant. What is happening to the people in my heart affects me. This is the idea of Christian community. We invite people into the center of our lives knowing that by doing that our lives will be impacted by what happens in their lives. We are connected. The pandemic has revealed that I am deeply connected to far fewer people than I thought.
I can understand why a congregation would not want to be connected to Paul in this way. Paul is suffering in ways that are difficult to imagine and to let him into their hearts would be deciding to experience that suffering with him.
How will they learn to love and trust God if they do not experience his mercy and faithfulness amid suffering? Is this why we allow so few people into our hearts? Increasing the number of people in our hearts means increasing the pain and joy we will experience. The only one who can provide the capacity to endure this pain and joy is God. I do not know which comes first. More people in our hearts requires more God. More God in our hearts makes room for more people. Who do you need to make room for in your heart?