Dear First Lutheran Friends:
This month I share an article that I adapted from something written by Chad Bird, a former LCMS pastor who like to do a bit of writing.
I have a dog that walks me. What my Dachshund lacks in size, he makes up for in the pursuit of adventure. He pulls the long leash to its limits and winds up corkscrewed around mailboxes, trees, and my legs. He tries to stare down larger animals without any idea of what he’s getting himself into. He likes to roll in mud and other things too filthy to mention. What I consider frustrating, dangerous, ill-advised, and just plain gross, to my dog seems quite natural. He’s just doing what dogs do. He is acting according to his nature. He is following his heart wherever it leads—no matter what.
We hear the same message: follow your heart. Students are told to do this when choosing everything from careers to sexual orientation. It pours out of the radio in song after song, regardless of whether your station is country, rock, or whatever. We tell our friends this when they’re struggling to decide where to go to church, who to marry, whether or not to divorce, and just about any other situation in which significant, often life-changing decisions, must be made. Follow your heart, and all will be well. But will it?
If I’m to follow my heart, isn’t it a good idea to ask whether my heart is wise? God certainly does give the gift of wisdom. But if God isn’t in my heart, I had best stop and ask where my heart is taking me. To follow an empty heart leads to empty places. Empty places lead to desperation. Desperation leads to reliving the same heartache over and over. I’d like to think my beliefs are deeper than the plotline of a Disney movie, but sometimes I follow myself rather than Jesus, and like my dog, end up rolling in filth as if it’s the best thing I ever did. I’ve found plenty of ways to soil my soul in the grime that my heart tries to convince me is gold.
So if we don’t follow our hearts, then what—or who—do we follow? If the question with which we struggle has its answer in the Word of God, then that is what we are called to follow. And we follow not simply because “THAT’S WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS,” but because we are the children of God, baptized in his name, called to imitate him as those who bear the image and likeness of his Son. And what the Bible says describes what real life looks like.
It’s a life that frequently involves standing against cultural tides—standing for human life and dignity, standing against immoralities parading themselves as choices, and standing alongside all who suffer, even when they brought it on themselves. We can “follow our hearts” in the moments of clarity that come when they’ve been cleansed, and permeated with divine truth and love.
But that’s not the call of Jesus.
He says, follow me.
We follow our Lord, who in his word directs us down paths that are true, straight, and narrow, and lead to a life of service followed by eternal life.
“Follow your heart”? No, rather, let us follow our Lord of love, who loves us enough to rescue us from ourselves, to forgive us when we follow our hearts down paths in which we become entwined in a myriad of sins, and to assure us that his heart is full to the brim with nothing but mercy and compassion for us, his beloved children.
Be blessed as you follow Jesus,
Pastor Greg DeMuth
Rev Gregory A. DeMuth, M.A. CGS
First Ev Lutheran Church 735 NE 1st Ave
Grand Rapids, MN 55744