Better Beheaded than Behearted – the Real Danger of These Times

beach-193786_640I was shocked last night by the national news.

I was shocked, not by the content, but by the prioritized order of the headlines. The lead story was, of course, a serious one. Ebola has arrived in the United States and now an NBC news cameraman from Rhode Island has contracted Ebola. Of course this is news and worthy of a top headline.

The story that followed, however, was another ISIS beheading of an aid worker from the UK. It received only a minute or so of coverage and the anchor was matter-of-fact about with his delivery.

That’s what shocked me. In less than six weeks, terrorist beheadings have sunk in the headlines and no longer cause news anchors to stumble in their delivery.

And that’s how it works, isn’t it?

De-sensitization. That’s the word for it. In psychological terms it means: the diminished emotional responsiveness to a negative or aversive stimulus after repeated exposure to it.”

Humans are hard-wired to adapt – even to that which should repel us. In brutal times, this can be a powerful coping mechanism enabling some to survive what otherwise might destroy them but it’s also the reason, I believe, the Biblical writers predicted that for many of us, our love would grow cold as we hurtle toward Christ’s return.

“And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.” Matthew 24:12

Just as medical personnel triage casualties in times of war, so each of us performs a type of emotional triage in order to survive the times in which we live. I’m sure those behind the scenes of the national news triaged Ebola over beheading because the Ebola victim was an American and the beheading victim was from the UK. Connection triage.

We do it ourselves every day.

Thousands of men, women, and children have succumbed to Ebola on the African continent in this outbreak. We’ve noted it but haven’t allotted it significant emotional energy because, well, it’s very far away and the numbers out of Africa are always large, aren’t they? They die in droves on that continent from war, hunger, famine, and disease. If you look at many of our hearts, there’s a well-developed callous over the section labeled “compassion for Africa.”

My defense line against this is the local African nationals I love. Several worshipers from my church hail from Nigeria. Many of their family and friends remain there. When I hear the headlines, I don’t picture a faceless continent, I picture the loved ones of my church family. This fuels my prayers for people I don’t know and whose lives are so distant from my own. We need to fight against the oncoming cold that threatens all of our hearts. This is one way I wage war against my own petrification.

The cameraman with Ebola is American. We have photos of him, interviews with his loved ones, and a story attached to his condition. He is one. That’s a number that gets past the gatekeeper of our compassion stores. He is also “one of us.” This whisks him on a media-driven gurney into our hearts with sirens blaring and lights flashing, where every victim deserves to be.

It’s so complicated, this whole idea of loving the world the way God does. Who can do it? Five minutes after the headlines, we’ve moved on. Or, we’re writing editorials judging the victims in order to push back the pain.

When missionaries were afflicted with Ebola, there was an outcry demanding to know what God would send them into that kind of risk. But the gods of media, the gods of journalism, the gods of the publics’ right to know haven’t batted an eyelash when one of their own is downed. In fact, last night they did a complement piece on the safety procedures the remaining journalists utilize to prevent the contamination it didn’t prevent in their coworker.

Why do we accept that journalists must be on the frontlines of danger but the ministers of God have no business there? Christians imprisoned for bringing Bibles to North Korea are condemned while those captured trying to get photos and a story are hailed as heroes. And meanwhile, a man is savagely beheaded before our eyes and it’s not the lead story.

Why am I writing about this today? Because, loved ones, we have to guard our hearts in these times. I hear many Christians working overtime to guard their eyes but it is our hearts that are in danger.

And by instructing us to guard our hearts, I believe God meant the opposite of building walls around them. A heart that is walled in, untouched, hard, unfeeling, impervious to pain – this is not a heart, this is a stone. God promises to replace our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh. This makes for soft, bleeding hearts but there you have it, God’s will for us: even in these hard times – we shall not grow hard.

How does a soft, open-hearted, bleeding flesh heart survive these times? Only by the power of Jesus. Go to Him often. Pray. Read His word. Pray with others who love Him. Abide in Him. Make Him your heart’s home. Erecting walls around your heart is self-protection. Not only is that a poor substitute for a life hidden in Christ, it’s sin. Loving the world is hard, demanding work – physically, mentally, and emotionally. But it’s the work to which we’ve been called.

Next time you’re tempted to harden your heart, think about the hard work Christ puts in to love us. You think it’s easy to love millions of people who can hear about their dying neighbors and flip the channel to Wheel of Fortune without even a prayer of intercession? Better a body beheaded than a soul behearted, loved ones.

Invite Jesus to guard your heart while you are about the work of loving the world the way He does.  How do you work with the Lord to maintain a heart of flesh in a world that requires hearts of stone?

**Please note, this post was written by a Jesus-follower who believes it is possible to continue to love others in a hard-hearted world, not because of experience or ease but because God’s word says it is possible through Christ. It’s fine to take breaks from watching the news but it’s never okay to escape the responsibility we have of loving others through intercession, speaking out, and practical acts of mercy and compassion. I believe we need to share our strategies for keeping our hearts aflame because of the danger we’ve been warned against that we will be tempted to let our love grow cold. Encourage one another here, loved ones. Let’s build a roaring fire around which to keep warm in Jesus.

If you’d like to help spread the word about the book, you can forward your email to friends,  share the announcement on Facebook, or Tweet about it with this: Jerry B. Jenkins endorses upcoming book by first-time author! Running from a Crazy Man releases 12/14 http://wp.me/P4y0mC-Y #JerryBJenkins

Thank you, all, for your faithful support. It spurs me on to strive to write my best for the Lord.


Get in on the conversation

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

15 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Carole Underwood says:

    You seem to write just for me. The distress I am feeling, the questions I have during prayer, are answered through your column. I have every confidence that God has put me in your path. Bless you for your wisdom and abiding hope in the Lord!

  2. Lori,
    Thank you for sharing the truth, whole truth, nothing but the truth in your well written blog! May God have mercy on us ALL!

    In Christ’s Love
    Sheri DeLoach
    04 Oct 2014

  3. Verna Volker says:

    I needed to rest this. I can easily fear and want to hide from the problems of the world. I often think, “The problems are not near me, so life goes on.” What a great reminder to take comfort in prayer and seek God’s Word! “Greater is He that is in me that he is in the world!” Thank you for your thoughts!

  4. Karen says:

    We know Jesus is alive, and He still has His human body. We know from the Word, He still has the holes in His hands, side, and feet. Yet recently in prayer, I noticed something I hadn’t before – He still has the holes, but He is no longer bleeding. He let Thomas put his hand inside Him to help him believe, but He wasn’t a bloody mess.
    As I prayed about how to face the ugliness of the world around us, how to handle it without falling apart, He said, “No more bleeding.” We can open up; we can let people inside of us. We can live open to God and others. But we don’t have to bleed for them. Jesus already did.
    It doesn’t mean we don’t feel. It means we are led by Jesus, not our feelings. Feelings can be deceptive; Jesus said, “Follow Me.” We may follow Him to deep intercessory prayer; we may follow Him to a banquet of joy and life.
    I’m still figuring this one out 🙂 But it has relieved some of the burden off of my shoulders. If Jesus did it, I’m determined He can teach me, too.

    • Feelings aren’t our enemies, we just submit them to Jesus like we submit to Him our bodies, minds, and wills. He came so that we can have life to the full and feeling deeply is part of that.

      • Karen says:

        Oh, absolutely! I agree with you! However, feelings can get in the way of action if we aren’t careful. My point was simply that it helped me to realize and remember that it’s not more “spiritual” to be emotionally disabled by what’s going on around me. Jesus paid the price with His sacrifice for everyone’s freedom; now I get to stand up in my authority and pray and intercede to see things change, not fall under the strain of it. I loved your point of going to Jesus with your wounds and allowing Him to heal them! He is the answer!

  5. Debra says:

    First, Lori, congratulations on the endorsement by Jerry Jenkins – I know this must’ve made your day 🙂

    I’m shocked as well by the media’s prioritized news. One minute you’ll hear about (yet another) beheading, and in the next breath you’ll hear about a football star’s career on the line because of misconduct, or the latest political poll, or whatever would be better left on the back burner, maybe left off the stove altogether. Just another tactic of “the prince of the power of the air (waves).”

    And, what bothers me most is that sheer craziness is presented as the new normal. When I listen to the news nowadays I feel my heart being slowly poisoned by lackadaisical reporting, cold and callous coverage. Have you ever noticed a reporter brushing off a smile just one second before announcing the most barbaric crime in the history of the world as we know it?

  6. Debra says:

    I’m shocked by the media’s prioritized news as well. One minute you’ll hear about (yet another) beheading, and in the next breath you’ll hear about a football star’s career on the line because of misconduct, or the latest political poll, or whatever would be better left on the back burner, maybe left off the stove altogether. Just another tactic of “the prince of the power of the air (waves).”

    And, what bothers me most is that sheer craziness is presented as the new normal. When I listen to the news nowadays I feel my heart being slowly poisoned by lackadaisical reporting, cold and callous coverage. Have you ever noticed a reporter brushing off a smile just one second before announcing the most barbaric crime in the history of the world as we know it?

  7. Carla says:

    I have beloved sisters in Christ in Africa and India so yes, it brings the news closer in my heart. I wept for Ms Ibrahim while she gave birth in her jail cell, and after FBing with Nagmeh Abidini, and seeing her faith for her husband, Pastor Sayeed, it keeps the problems of Christianity on the forefront. The thing that keeps me going is Hebrews 11, where Paul is telling about the martyrs for Jesus and he says ‘of whom the world is NOT worthy’. These people are in a class of their own, and although it is HARD now, Abba surrounds them. I found a post on FB that says “Some Christians are asking ‘when will the tribulation start?’ Others are asking when the tribulation will end.” This hit me hard. We in America have been blessed because of our Christian heritage. When our leaders said on national TV that this is no longer a Christian nation, our fate was sealed. Last week we saw our first beheading on American soil. This will not be the last. We MUST, MUST take these events seriously. We are not isolated, we are no longer protected as a country. I urge everyone to dig in and develop the best relationship with Jesus we can. Our souls depend on it.

    God bless

  8. Ann Jorgensen says:

    Powerful words. There is an urgency in them that befits the times we live in. I love your explanation of what it means to guard your heart. I will be meditating on that and prayerfully considering what that means for me.

  9. Lori,
    You are incredible in your perception and awareness, taking what the Lord shows you and then putting those insights into words. Thank you for your faithfulness to not only Him, but to all those who are challenged by your writing…I can’t wait to read your book! And huge congratulations on the Jerry Jenkin’s endorsement!

    You had asked me to let you know when my blog is up and running, so I am…I submit it humbly for your perusal…it’s so small but it comes from my heart . My prayer is that it will be a blessing and encouragement to others. http://www.4everhis.com You are a large part of why I began blogging…my “kick-in-the-pants-get-up-and-get-going” person. We all need people like that in our lives. Thank you!

    Blessings!

  10. Cork Hutson says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more on this, Lori. Even limiting TV and other forms of media, the desensitizing genie has a way of sneaking in to our hearts. I don’t even like to listen to talk radio any longer, I turn off the news when I hear it on the radio, and very seldom click on anything but headline pages now.
    But, it still finds us! It’s like walking through a spider web in the dark (which is a great form of exercise, by the way). For hours afterward, you are pulling the phantom silk strands out of your hair hoping there is not a spider still attached! Arrrrgh!
    Thanks for the post.