By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.
God works through the heart (Jeremiah 31:33). It is out of the heart that we connect with God (Romans 10:10). We are told not to lose heart (Galatians 6:9). What does the heart represent in the Bible?
The definition of the heart in the Bible includes the conjunction of emotion, knowledge and the will. Each of these parts has an effect on the other parts; each part cannot be separated from the other parts.
In the story of the prodigal son, the father’s love for his wayward son was one of emotion, and not just from reasoning or just his commitment to his son. The father did not respond to his son just because it was the right thing to do, or because he was forcing his will to comply. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him (Luke 15:20).” It was the combination of all three parts – emotion, knowledge, and the will, that serves as a model for the love of God for us, and as a model for the love we are to have for others.
In contrast, in the description of a religious sect, Jesus describes their knowledge and their commitment, but questions their motivation. He compares them to white-washed tombs, beautiful on the outside but dead on the inside. He compares them with a dirty cup, again presentable on the outside, but the inside is corrupt (Matthew 23:25-27). Here again, rationality and dedication are insufficient if not corresponding to honest emotions. Paul also points to the knowledge of God alone being insufficient (Romans 1:21). The rich young ruler also attempted to gain favor by performance.
What if our desire, knowledge or will is lacking? God builds desire in us (Philippians 2:13), and for that we have to turn to Him.