Start With the Heart: A Lenten Devotional

by Rick Love

The heart of peacemaking is the heart! So as we consider Lent and making peace with others, let’s begin by reflecting on Jesus.

The Bible uses two words to describe Jesus’ Incarnation and death on the cross. Jesus “emptied himself and humbled himself” (Philippians 2:5-8). In other words, before we could experience peace with God, Jesus had to empty himself and humble himself.

The same act of humility has to happen in us if we want to make peace with others.

"Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye” (Matthew 7:3-5 NRS).

Notice the first step in peacemaking according to Jesus: the humility to get the log out of our own eyes. We need to deal with our own stuff first. We take responsibility for our own actions before we focus on what the other person did.

We start with the heart!

When we face conflict our most primal response is either fight or flight. We blow up or clam up. We tend to be violent or silent.

And if we decide to fight, what is our usual mode? Blame-shifting and finger pointing! Just like our first parents, Adam and Eve, we blame the other rather than take responsibility (Genesis 3:11-13).

So how do we overcome these tendencies? We remove the log from our eye. First! Even if we believe the other party is 90 percent wrong, we are still responsible for our 10 percent.

We are 100 percent responsible for our 10 percent!

I remember a particularly intense counseling session I had with a married couple. With voices raised and fingers pointing at the other, accusations, anger, and criticism spilled out. I calmed them down and shared what Jesus taught about getting the log out of your eye BEFORE you accuse or rebuke the other. So I cut the counseling session short and said, “Let’s set another time for our counseling session. And for your homework, I want you to write up a list of your logs.”

Our next counseling session went much better!

Take a moment to reflect on Jesus’ emptying himself and humbling himself by dying on the cross.

Then commit yourself to obeying Jesus’ example and command. Start with your heart!

A Lenten practice: at the end of each day – perhaps at the dinner table, or before you go to bed – ask yourself, “Was there a time today when I humbled myself and faced my own issues rather than getting angry or confronting someone else?” If so, thank the Lord. If you failed to do so, ask Jesus to forgive you and to give you the courage to do as he did.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).