I can remember sitting with my dad in church one Sunday in November, well over 35 years ago. I remember it was November because I was playing with the pin I had pulled out of the poppy I had found. As the preacher preached, I poked gently at the callouses on my hands, pulling up pieces of dry hardened skin. Then I thought, “Dad’s hands have way more callouses than mine, I wonder how deep I can push the pin into his callouses?” Dad, who was intently listening to the pastor, ignored me as I started to gently poke at his hands, undisturbed because of the hardened surface of his hands. UNTIL…I pushed just a little too hard! I remember that situation drawing some attention to our section of the church.
Over time, through repeated friction, wear and damage (and obviously no skin care regiment) dad’s hands had built up a thick layer of calloused skin making his hands tough and far less penetrable. These callouses are a profound analogy that the Bible uses to describe the condition of many of our hearts. A heart that has lost its sensitivity and has become stubborn and rebellious, having been hardened by repeated wear, damage, and a lack of care.
Calloused hands serve to protect the worker from constant irritation and pain…psychologically speaking we tend to build up a defensive layer which causes us to become insensitive to things that we would rather ignore, reject, or deny. In the Bible the heart is the inner person that sets the direction for life our passions and actions. So how is it that our heart can become callous? And how do I know if mine is Calloused?
Some listening to this will reply by saying…well that’s not me, I go to church, I read my Bible…I pray, I’m a good person. But Jesus most often confronts religious people regarding their hard and calloused hearts like in Mark 8 and Matthew 13. Just as the workers hands develop callouses by constant exposure, many people who are repeatedly exposed to spiritual revelation can grow insensitive to the weight of what is being spoken. We know the words; we know the right thing to say in response and yet our hearts are far removed from the reality of these truths and their implications on our lives.
Sometimes the hardness of our hearts is due to damage done to us in the past and so we put our guard up and try to protect ourselves from what we perceive as harmful. Other times, it is simply our stubborn pride that desperately wants to live in the comfort and routine of our current lifestyle so we simply refuse to change. But the more we hear truth and refuse to respond appropriately the more layers of callous our hearts develop till eventually our hearts become cold and outright rebellious. While a callous heart might feel comfortable momentarily it will hold massive repercussions on our future and our eternity if we choose to neglect or reject such a great hope.
So, what is the solution to a hard heart?
God’s solution begins with an offer; an offer to give us a new heart. According to the Bible, our stubborn heart is damaged beyond repair. We need a heart transplant. In Ezekiel 36:26, God tells us that “He will give us a new heart…not a heart of stone but of flesh.” A sensitive heart. But just as is the reality in the physical world, In order for a transplant to take place the damaged heart needs a replacement from a donor. Every donor donates at the cost of their life. For us to receive a new heart God in His love and mercy, offered his only son so that we could receive a new heart and receive new life. The writer of Hebrews warns us…” Today if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts as many did in their rebellion.” (Hebrews 3:15) His offer is for you…Don’t harden your heart ask God to give you a new heart today, a heart of flesh.