“Love one another earnestly from a pure heart.”
(1 Peter 1:22)
Greetings on this cold, blustery January morning. The church here in Cherokee seems to have gone into hibernation mode: last Sunday’s blizzard conditions prevented our guest speaker from coming so worship was cancelled; today’s dangerously cold temperatures have prompted us to cancel all church activities for the evening as well. The forecast calls for temperatures ranging from -9 to -15 tonight. You shouldn’t go out unless you absolutely must.
I read on the mayo clinic that Frostbite can occur rapidly in these conditions. The risk of frostbite “increases as air temperature falls below 5 F (minus 15 C), even with low wind speeds. In wind chill of minus 16.6 F (minus 27 C), frostbite can occur on exposed skin in less than 30 minutes.” With the expected wind chill tonight around -30, frostbite can develop after only 10 minutes of exposure.
The danger of frostbite is that you first lose the sensation of feeling before the damage is done. You don’t know you have it until it is too late. If not addressed, frostbite can lead to deep tissue damage, changes in the cartilage between the joints (frostbite arthritis), infection, gangrene, which is the decay and death of tissue resulting from an interruption of blood flow to the affected area. Frostbite can also lead to hypothermia, where the body’s temperature drops to dangerous levels, cause a malfunction of the heart, nervous system and other organs; eventually leading to complete failure of your heart and respiratory system and to death. So for goodness sake, stay inside and stay warm.
But as you are warming yourselves by the fire, bundled under the blankets, stop to consider the warmness of your heart. We know the dangers of prolonged exposure to the cold and biting wind, but the hazards of a cold and bitter heart are just as deadly. A cold heart that does not love has many of the same characteristics as frostbitten skin:
- It is hardened: A cold heart does not move or feel for the needs of others,
- It is infectious: A cold and unloving heart spreads easily, tearing others down and encouraging the same attitude in others,
- It is gangrenous: A cold heart destroys relationships, crushes spirits, blocks any healthy growth,
- It is deadly: When Christians harbor coldness in their hearts, when Churches are cold and unloving, it leads to a complete failure of all the vital ministries. Cold hearts kill churches.
Jesus talked about this when He warned His disciples of the coming persecution, saying that “many will fall away and betray one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:10-12). In Revelation, this is the charge against the church in Ephesus, “but this I have against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4).
A church, a Christian, that does not love does not know love, does not know God (1 John 4:8). A church, a Christian, whose heart has grown cold and unloving harbors a bitterness and unforgiving attitude that will lead to death.
So what can you do to warm the cold, cold heart? Kindle your heart with new affection. Turn first to the Word of God. Look there to read of and know of His great love for you in Jesus Christ. God’s word is the revelation of His love, and by His Holy Spirit His word brings life, and love, to our hearts.
In the story of the Emmaus Road, the two disciples were walking away from Jerusalem after the crucifixion of Jesus, their hearts heavy and broken because of the death of their savior. Jesus met them on the road, but they did not recognize Him. As they walked, He taught them from the scriptures all that was said about the Christ. After they had broken bread together, and the eyes of the disciples were opened and they saw Jesus, they said to one another, “Did not our hearts burn within us… while he opened to us the Scriptures? If you want your heart to burn for the Lord once again, turn to His word.
Finally, turn to your brother and sister in love. The best cure for a cold heart is love – actual, tangible, expressions of love. 1 Peter 1:22 says, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again.” That word earnestly means “fervently, sincerely, genuinely,” some translations have even said “love each other with a warm heart.”
Expressions of love have a tendency to grow love, to break the cold and unfeeling heart. What does this look like? Send someone a card saying that you have been praying for them or thank them for something they’ve done. If you’re able, shovel someone’s driveway, or take them a batch of warm brownies. Invite your neighbor into your home for a cup of coffee and catch up on their life. An expression of love doesn’t have to be a grand costly gift, but it will change your world, and theirs.
Stay warm this week, and warm your hearts with an earnest love for one another.