Thoughts on ḥesed
Recently, I was very kindly invited to join a group of writers commenting on current events from a Christian perspective. Reluctantly, I declined, feeling that were I to write about the procession of evils that our society experiences and the politics that nourishes it, I would be writing the same essay over and over. This is because all the social deformities, ethical debilities, moral diseases, crippling hatreds—in short, all the evils our society is reeling under—have a common cause.
The greatest and most pressing social problem is estrangement from God. It is the root cause of all the other evils.
When we see human misbehavior, in riots, demonstrations for despicable causes, violence, or terrorism, we see people. For some, they are enemies—very real enemies in many cases; for others, they are simply masses that must be brought under control. But for those who follow Christ, they are lost souls, acting out their desperate need for the Gospel.
Because of ḥesed in the heart, the Christian instinctively reacts very differently to the world. The heart that is like God’s heart enables the eyes to see the world as God sees it. Those misbehaving people are not just enemies or criminals, but His lost sons and daughters. Is their misbehavior a “cry for help?” If only it were! But our compassion should be aroused not only for their victims but also for the perpetrators, as they make terrible, crippling choices and, by their actions, select their condemnation.
What they and invisible millions of others need more than anything is a connection with God. Jesus saw this. He wept over Jerusalem for its abandonment of God. Jesus knew, because He has a heart like God’s—exactly like it, because it is the same heart—that life must have divine purpose, people need identity and meaning, and when these are absent, the world substitutes counterfeits—rules of religion for true spiritual renewal, false promises, and true miseries. Jesus knew that Jerusalem could have been so much greater had she chosen ḥesed over sacrifices (Hos. 6:6a). But she would not.
The estrangement must end. This is the perfect work for one whose heart is like God’s heart, who has ḥesed even a little. The estrangement ends one person at a time. For anyone who will do this Godly work, it begins with prayer that God will cause the world’s spiritual oppression to be lifted, prayer for wisdom to discern and address the deficiencies in the lives of those who are estranged, prayer for the words that need to be spoken to each estranged person, and prayer for the Lord to place the right person in the worker’s path—finally, action to take the message to those who so desperately need it.
Perhaps there will be a large movement towards the lost. I pray so: there are so many. It could happen. For, by God’s design, the church of Jesus Christ is the most effective force for good the world has ever seen. But large or small, along with any other follower of Jesus, because of ḥesed in our hearts, we pray, “If it be your will, Lord, may it begin with me.”
That is the believer’s response to every disordered and broken situation thrown up by the enemy, every time: the estrangement must end; nothing less will do. For without intimate knowledge of God (Hos. 6:6b), there is no ḥesed and never will be.
Robert McAnally Adams is a retired mathematician and curator of The Christian Quotation of the Day. See cqod.com