Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart.
This above is a line from a classic Negro spiritual song which some of us may be familiar with. I remember it from time to time, as I did this week. The whole chorus is just that line, with a beautiful haunting melody.
It reminds me of where it all starts and where it matters most. The Bible uses the Greek term kardia for the nerve centre from which we desire, think, act and react.
As we grow older, or time progresses, life does get more complicated of course. We philosophise, theologise, theorise, and since it rhymes, improvise and compromise as well. Life moves from the basic commitments of love, faith, faithfulness, integrity, sincerity and humility to that of ideas and concepts. And as we progress in ‘maturity’ in ideas and articulation of them, strangely, we become more immature in our basic behaviour and life. We seek mastery over others, events and our own progress. Yet at the same time, we lose mastery over ourselves and the very simple values and practices that we know from the kardia of our lives.
So, when we say a Christian is mature, what do we mean? Does this mean that we cease to read the Bible regularly and yet we are able to articulate spiritual solutions for society? Does it mean that we cease to be loving, kind and considerate towards those dearest to us, while we reflect on the deepest ideas of sacrifice for mankind and society? Does it mean that we try to save the whole world but lose our own family? Do we think of overseas missions but are clueless about sharing the gospel to an inquiring neighbour or colleague (and we have not even thought of an Alpha invitation!)?
The list goes on. And somewhere in our heart, the Negro spiritual hums quietly. We remember that Jesus said that ‘unless we become like little children, we will not enter the Kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3).’ St Paul also alerts us: ‘But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2 Cor 11:3)’
I said “as I did this week.” It is a word for me as much as it may be for some of you. Perhaps a Canon needs it even more as the complexities of life and ministry can easily drown out the Negro spiritual line.
Pray for me as I will for you. That we will always want to be followers of Christ ...in my heart.