Since writing the post about love as the boundary, I’ve been thinking more about this issue. One of the most commonly used verses when relationships are discussed is Proverbs 4:23.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (NIV)
I have heard this said for years, but honestly, I don’t think that I ever thought about what it meant. I suppose I assumed that it meant that we should be careful about how we interact with one another. It was usually paired with the verse about our deceitful hearts and sometimes with a verse about being unequally yoked. It was always used with regard to relationships, whether romantic or otherwise (but mostly romantic).
On the other side, Christians are regularly told to love unconditionally. The word agape is tossed around. All-encompassing, unrestricted love. The sort of love that Jesus was to have had for us.
One side that suggests caution, one side that suggest recklessness.
How do we sort that out?
When I look at the surrounding passages in Proverbs, the writer is dispensing wisdom, as a writer of proverbs is wont to do. In verse 21 and 22, he admonishes the receiver of the wisdom to keep that in his heart. Then we see the instruction to guard your heart, followed by things that are relationship killers (deceitful mouth, devious speech, gossip).
I think we might be looking at the word guard with a more militaristic view than is intended. According to Strong’s, guard means “diligence.” Instead, I think we often view it as a fence that we need to set up around our heart to keep it safe.
But safety isn’t a big part of unconditional love. I would suggest that if we learned anything from Jesus’s time on earth, it’s that relationships aren’t safe. It means being sought after by the rejects. It means being touched by the dirty. It means conversations with people who conventional wisdom suggests we should avoid. It means a life characterized by humility and generosity.
This is a reckless, wild kind of life. And when we do things that are reckless and wild, we need to be diligent. The rules get all turned around when we love in the way modeled for us by Jesus, so we must keep our eyes focused on him.
If we give our hearts to him, we can trust him to guard them.
What have you been taught about guarding your heart? Where have you guarded your heart in a way that prevented you from unconditionally loving others?