The following paragraphs are excerpts from a book I am writing, priumarily discussing dating, courting, and relationships from a Christian perspective. Indirectly, I touch on the issue of "guarding your heart," which is, perhaps, the finest example of Biblical misinterpretation one could find. I tthought that they might find a nice home here in this blog about truth.
The phrase “guard your heart,” while Biblical in its origins, provides a hint of truth upon which Satan has forged numerous lies concerning ourselves and how we relate to others. Certainly, Jesus (who is himself the Word of God), never advised use to hide from the world to guard our hearts. In fact he commanded us to go out into the world and bring the light to it (see Matt 28:18-19, the “Great Commission”).
I believe that the phrase “guard your heart,” much like the phrase “don’t settle,” is a tired and lonely expression that damages Christian relationships today. Quite frankly, this scripture has nothing to do with dating or relationships, and it is taken out of context more often than any other scripture with which I am familiar. Churches have been using this phrase, for years, to advise young men and women from engaging in activities that might cause hurt feelings, with dating being the chiefly prohibited activity.
Proverbs chapter four is a message from a father to his son concerning the need to get wisdom and live a life of light without straying from the path of righteousness and into a wilderness of evil. Verse 23, in the ESV, says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” However, in the (less literal) NIV translation, it reads, “Above everything else, guard your heart. It is where your life comes from.”
This is great advice, but it is not advising Christians to hide from situations where our feelings might get hurt, and neither does it justify hiding from people we think might hurt us. It is certainly not attacking dating, courting, or relationships. The goal is to live our lives Biblically in those situations, to guard our hearts FROM EVIL and SIN. Even in the NIV, which is a less than literal translation (and therefore a less desirable translation in my opinion), the purpose for which this father advised his son to “guard your heart” can be concretely discerned by examining the verses that immediately follow. Here it is, in more detail:
“Above everything else, guard your heart. It is where your life comes from. Don't speak with twisted words. Keep evil talk away from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead. Keep looking right in front of you. Make level paths for your feet to walk on. Only go on ways that are firm. Don't turn to the right or left. Keep your feet from the path of evil” (Prov 4:23-27, NIV) (emphasis supplied).
What wonderful advice this is, and what a shame it is that so many misuse this chapter to advance agendas other than what the inspired author intended. No one will argue the merits of the author’s words, but he was not advising us to avoid interacting with the opposite sex or to hide in a hole from the things in this world that might hurt our feelings.
Christianity merits boldness, not fear. In fact, our slogan should be: "Fear not!" Remember 2 Timothy 1:7:, "For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." The Bible, in advising us to vigilantly keep our hearts (guard them) is referring to protecting them from sin, not from emotional suffering. In fact, to do God's work, sometimes we have to risk heartache. That's part and parcel of being bearers of the truth.