“After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.” – Acts 15:7-8
The above quotation is part of a discussion that takes place among the early disciples who are holding the church’s first council in Jerusalem. The issue at hand: whether or not the new non-Jewish believers should be required to keep Torah, the law of Moses, as the Jews always had. Since Christianity has its roots in Judaism, and was founded by Jesus who was himself a Jewish rabbi, should obedience to Jewish law be expected of non-Jewish Christians?
As I was reading, one phrase grabbed my attention: God, who knows the heart. Intrigued, I looked up the passage in the original Greek, where I found the entire phrase summed up in two words: καρδιογνωστης θεος – which sounds something like “cardio-gnostis Theos” and translates into “heart-knowing God”.
What a thing to think about! God is a God who knows the heart. How often do we try to hide our hearts from him, believing that what we think or feel can be kept from him? A pastor I know once remarked that the communion service begins where most people want to stop: with the words “Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid…”
That’s one side of the coin. The other side is the good news that God knows our hearts and loves us anyway. He doesn’t love all the junk we stash in there, but he loves us, the very essence of who we are. We are worth more to him than we know, we are more valuable to him than we are to ourselves, and we can take comfort in that.
If all we ever see of God is his judgment all we will ever feel towards him is fear and despair. If we see his love as well, we discover a balance and a freedom that comes from forgiveness and trust. The choice is ours. Face-to-face with a loving, heart-knowing God, will we turn away in fear or trust him and begin to live?