I was reading in 2 Corinthians this morning and I came upon this text:
2 Corinthians 6:11-13
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.
Paul’s second letter to Corinth is perhaps his most tender and emotional letter. While his first letter to them was filled with strong reprimands for their arrogance, bad theology, selfishness, and sin, his second letter is restorative and pastorally affectionate. In context, the parenthetical statement in verse 13 above was spoken from a fatherly heart to spiritual children. Paul’s not rebuking them (as he was in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 when he called them “infants in Christ”). Instead, he is addressing them with the “wide open” heart of a father with his kids. The immediate context of this statement begins a few verses earlier in 2 Corinthians 6:1 with Paul saying “we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.”
This appeal for them to “widen” their hearts really struck me. It got me thinking about something I read from C.S. Lewis at one point. I looked it up and found it in The Weight of Glory:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Why is it that we often feel like serving God is “restrictive?” Isn’t that the mindset that our culture seems to have about God? If we’re honest as Christians, doesn’t that also creep into our thinking and theology as well? God is here to “rob us of our fun,” “to suck the excitement out of life,” “to limit us,” or “to put a seatbelt on our lives.” It seems the Corinthians may have felt that way as well. Paul says, “You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections.”
Translation: “We’re not holding you back, your own affections are limiting your experience of God. You are far too easily pleased.”
I think the combination of legalistic religion, cultural views on God and the church, and neutered theology can produce this cocktail of emptiness in our souls. Our hearts have a tendency to grow narrow. When this happens, we tighten up. We lose the joy found in generosity, the freedom experienced through sacrifice, and the peace and rest captured by imaging the God we were created to reflect, worship, and know.
My prayer today is that our hearts would widen. There is personal responsibility involved here. Paul told the Corinthians: “widen your hearts.” How? Perhaps by pausing, looking at the sandbox we so enjoy building castles in, stepping back, and taking a moment to pray for revelation from God.