I respect Martin Luther King Jr very much.Though I am not sympathetic to all of his political views, I remain perpetually in awe of his beautifully stalwart stance with regard to equality and unity. His willingness to carry out the passions of his heart are a point of conviction to me and they challenge me anytime I read something about him or by him.
A quote from a speech he gave in Michigan in 1963 points to something that I’ve been meditating on today from my reading of the Psalms this morning:
There are certain things in our nation and in the world which I am proud to be maladjusted and which I hope all men of good-will will be maladjusted until the good societies realize — I say very honestly that I never intend to become adjusted to — segregation and discrimination.
There is a fluent artistry to the way King moved words. His literary cadence is a magnificent rhythm for the melody of his message. And this quote is no different.
David had a way with words as well. And in a verse from Psalm 86 there is a little phrase that I suppose I had never paid a great deal of attention to until this morning:
Teach me your way, O LORD,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.
“Unite my heart…”. There is an implied treachery wrapped up in a heart that is divided. For the heart that has failed to come together there is little hope to truly walk in the Biblically recurrent idea: “the fear of the Lord”. I believe that this idea is specifically applicable to believers in Christ, as they are uniquely in the position of having both old and new affections. And we should take careful note that David’s prayer here is not that his heart would be united with God’s, but that heart within him would be whole. The demarcation David makes is not between something inside of him and something outside of him. The entire realm of disunity here exists within David’s chest; and within ours.
There is a need for us to learn what it means to desegregate our heart. The Hebrew idea of the “heart” was the center of the affections and the will, the motivating force that informed the mind and directed the body. The interesting reality of salvation, as is seen in daily life and described in the New Testament, is that though we are born again in Christ and given a new heart with new affections and with the laws of God written inside of us, there remains a battle with the old affections that have been displaced; the casualties of God’s victory in our hearts are our old affections. I say displaced very carefully and intentionally because anyone who is honest would admit that certain proclivities to do wrong remain within us, battling against the Spirit filled life that we have been adopted into through our new identity in Christ. Romans 7 is the hallmark passage dealing with this reality (which, for the record, I do not believe was a metaphorical, national, or pre-Spirit explanation…I believe it was Paul’s own transparency and confession of reliance on the Spirit of God…other explanations come far too close to glorifying Paul’s accomplishments or abdicating our perpetual need for the Holy Spirit even after we are redeemed and ransomed from slavery to sin).
We face, today, the unsavory promptings and pressures of our “old self”. Each time we, as believers, find ourselves leaning into a direction that we know is not of God, regardless of whether we actually engage it or not, that is the voice of our carnal affections beckoning for our attention. It huffs and throws tantrums and acts like a 6 year old brat when it doesn’t get its way. It claims that it has the real pathway to fulfillment and joy, despite our experience that empirically proves otherwise.
David’s prayer to God to “unite his heart” openly admits that his affections are at war. David who had seen God work and move powerfully had internal struggles and battles just like us. And as he expresses his desire to walk in the truth of God and the fear of the Lord, two non-negotiable aspects of the joyful Christian life, he prays earnestly for a heart whose affections would be focused upon one thing and one thing alone: God Himself.
The segregation of our hearts rob us of the simplistic, focused, child-like life that our souls crave, and that define spiritual maturity. We are built with the longing for eternal pleasures and perpetual novelties (Eccl 3), but the competing voices in our hearts attempts to sell us on present pleasures and temporary novelties instead. I would be safe in assuming that we all know how junky and unfulfilled we feel when we choose the melt-a-way candies of temporal, illegitimate, and immediate gratifications in place of wise and sacrificial pathways.
Today, may we first of all strain to listen to the competing voices in our hearts. May we become adept at discerning the different pitches and cadences and textures. And as we learn those voices may we choose to follow the one that lines up most closely with Scripture. I have a strong suspicion that it will be the voice of the indwelling Spirit.
And further than that, may we begin today to train our ear to only hear the voice of a unified heart. May we starve the old affections of their nourishment and strength by ignoring their cries for sustenance. May we offer those old, nefarious desires to God and let Him unify our hearts to beat in time with His, in respect, honor, and fear of Him and His ways.
This kind of thing is more marathon than sprint, it is the first step of a thousand miles. But, there is truly a significant difference in our outlook and in our insight when we choose to make that first step. May we never become adjusted to a segregated heart or to divided affections. May we walk through this life gloriously maladjusted to that condition.