Steve Macchia Blog

The Hateful Heart

It’s intriguing to note how often the word hate lands in the biblical text. Most of the references deal with what God hates (evil, falsehood, robbery, iniquity, wickedness, and even divorce). The Bible gets specific in Proverbs 6: 16-19 as, “Six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”

In addition, there are several passages that speak about what we are to hate as God’s people, summarized simply as evil. We’re reminded as well that it is blessed to be hated for loving God, and in turn we are admonished to do good toward all who hate us. In other words, join God in hating all the things that He hates (see above) and learn to turn the other cheek toward all who hate you for loving God and godliness.

But what about a God-fearing person who hates another God-fearing person? That’s when it gets confusing. It’s one thing to have a hateful heart as a non-believer, or to receive the hatred of a non-believer, but what about a hateful heart that exists within and among God’s family? How can hate toward another Christian ever be justified?

“Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him,” writes John in 1 John 2: 9-11.

Whenever I hear a Christian describe a hateful heart toward another in the family of God I hear inner torment and unresolved anger. There’s a blockage in the heart that stubbornly refuses to let any light shine on the hate that resides within. It’s considered easier to carry around animosity, malice, and spite than to deal openly, honestly, and lovingly toward those we may hate. But, since the truth always sets us free, a hateful heart can indeed be healed by the presence and power of God. When confronted by the initiating love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a hateful heart can be melted away and replaced instead with mercy, grace, and joy.

“We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4: 19-21). Does any shed of hate reside in your heart today toward God or one of God’s people? Rid yourself of the weight that burdens your heart and instead find freedom to love as one who’s been loved by God in order to love another.



The Forgiving Heart

If there’s one word I’d like to not only have in my everyday vocabulary but also in the core of my heart’s deepest desire, it’s the word: forgiving. How I long to have a truly forgiving heart…but in certain circumstances and challenging relationships this isn’t always the case. How about for you?

Over the years I have found comfort and instruction from those I respect who not only write about the topic of forgiveness, but have lived it too. When perplexed as to the best way to handle tough relational situations, and discerning the way forward is muddy at best, I look to the spiritual leadership of others who have trod the path before me. I hope these guides will be a source of encouragement and strength to you too.

One of my prayer mentors, Rueben Job, writes, “Forgiveness is a life-and-death matter because forgiveness lies at the very heart of Christian belief and practice. To remove forgiveness from our theology and practice is to tear the heart out of any hope of faithful Christian discipleship, and it is to drive a stake through the heart of Christian community…Forgiveness can never be taken lightly by those who consider their own need of forgiveness. The words of Jesus that we pray bind our need for forgiveness firmly to our willingness to forgive. Forgiveness is not only a preposterous gift; it is unbelievably difficult and costly. That is why we may talk about it easily and practice it with such difficulty.”

From Corrie Ten Boom, “Forgiveness is the key which unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.” Dallas Willard adds, “We forgive someone of a wrong they have done us when we decide that we will not make them suffer for it in any way.” Henri Nouwen asserts, “The authority of compassion is the possibility of man to forgive his brother, because forgiveness is only real for him who has discovered the weakness of his friends and the sins of his enemy in his own heart.”

James Howell writes, “When Jesus taught the disciples to pray, he grabbed hold of vertical forgiveness, ‘O Lord, forgive me, for I have sinned’ and nailed it to horizontal forgiveness, ‘…as we forgive those who trespass against us,’ two interrelated acts of forgiveness, forming a cross. Jesus not only taught about forgiveness. He became forgiveness. He makes forgiveness possible and real.” (Matt. 6: 12, 14,15).

Wendy Wright wisely contributes, “That which is unforgiven holds us captive. We are imprisoned by the hatred and malice we clutch in our hearts…When wrongs have been committed the last thing one wants, or even should do, is claim that the transgression should be overlooked. It is a long and painful process to move through the stages of healing that must occur for forgiveness to begin. The injury must be named and claimed as part of you, the pain allowed to work for you, the injurer must rightly be blamed, and power and strength returned to the injured. Then, knowing you have experienced pain and overcome it, forgiveness can come as a free act. Forgiveness can be the great cleansing action that allows one to begin again.”

How will a forgiving heart toward others (even when it’s not just forgiving them seven times, but seventy-seven times – Matt. 18: 22) lead you into freedom, fullness, and joy once more?



The Jealous Heart

While my wife and I were taking a leisurely afternoon stroll in a quaint community near our home, I overheard a few conversations standing in line at a coffee shop and sitting outside on a park bench. The first was about the couple’s second home on Cape Cod. The second was in reference to the luxury vehicle one man had just purchased for his daughter. What was it about their casual comments that tugged on me? I don’t like to admit it, but both sparked a tinge of jealousy in my heart…a response I neither desired or appreciated. I was surprised how quickly it emerged.

Upon reflection, what I experienced is well known to the biblical writers, and to centuries of Christ followers just like me. “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30). “Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?” (Proverbs 27:4). “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity…hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition…” (Galatians 5:19-21). The only One who can handle jealously in a godly manner is God – the One who is jealous for our love and attention above all other loves vying for our affection.

Jealousy is one of those ugly words we’d all prefer expunged from our vocabulary and experience. Like it’s sibling envy and its cousin anger, jealousy is what eeks out of a heart that’s not fully at peace, vulnerable to various alternatives to godly fondness. Jealously raises its head when we’re not content with our own circumstances, and prefer anothers to our own. Jealousy emerges when we’re in a complaining spirit and desirous of what’s seemingly out of reach. Jealousy wreaks with a stench of disharmony from within and wreaks havoc on our walk with others.

In what ways has your heart grown jealous recently? Is someone around you making more money, enjoying more happiness, expressing more delight, looking more beautiful, sounding more intelligent, owning more possessions, or appearing more athletic than you? If you’re not able to celebrate their personal life circumstance, then perhaps there’s a seed of jealousy burrowing it’s head down deep in the soil of your heart. Left unattended, it’s bound to grow into rage, dissension, factions and envy, or other less desirable responses.

Exploring the condition of our heart requires us to look authentically in the mirror of our attitudes toward others and within ourselves. Most likely, if you’re experiencing jealousy, the invitation from God is to find your joy in Him. “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another…if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12: 15-18). And, learn the secret of contentment “whatever the circumstances…in need…in plenty…in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4: 11-13).



The Discerning Heart

I’m composing this entry in the midst of helping our daughter Rebekah move to Denver, Colorado. She’s been in a process of transition for the past ten months, beginning with a desire to join her best friend who’s here as a seminary student studying spiritual formation and soul care. The final decision to move came several months ago, and included lots of thoughtful discussions, personal deliberations, and financial considerations. Now her dream has become a reality and we’re delighted with the prayerful discernment process she has undertaken in the context of her community of family and friends.

Discernment is a matter of the heart. It begins and ends with a sense of God’s Spirit moving in, through, and among those engaged in the process. Discernment involves an awareness of God’s presence and power, and often includes decision-making both great and small. Some have the gift of discernment (a subject for another time), but all Christ followers are invited to engage in discernment throughout their faith journey.

One of the clearest biblical stories of discernment is found in Luke 24, and the scene is the Road to Emmaus (verses 13-35). During this encounter with the risen Christ, two of his disciples were forlorn and confused about the death of their beloved Jesus. When Jesus shows up and walks along with them, he answers their questions and speaks into their experience. The whole encounter is drenched with Scriptural wisdom, compassionate insight and empathetic love. “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him…they asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’”

Discernment occurs along the journey of life when our hearts are burning within us, due to the empowering awareness of the Spirit. Sometimes God’s presence and power is obvious to His disciples and movement toward Jesus and His will is smooth and seamless. At other times there seems to be no sense of His guiding hand and we need to simply pray and wait for direction. Still other decisions require a process that leads toward clarity and consolation prior to moving forward. All of these incidences are faith producing and guide us into a deeper more intimate walk with the Savior.

Where in your faith walk is God inviting you into a time of prayerful discernment? Check out www.ruleoflife.com and see how others are leaning into this experience with joyful anticipation. I echo with gladness for you the prayer of the Apostle Paul for his friends in Philippi, “That your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1: 9-11).