EPISTLE | 1 JOHN 3:19-24
19And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him 20whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; 22and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.
23And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.
“God is greater than our hearts” (v.20)
As my semester draws near, I am given to reflect on the immense spiritual journey I have been on since January. So much of this semester has involved the deep, inner examination of my own heart. And then Easter comes, and Jesus isn’t bound to the tomb, and the death I encounter in myself can’t keep its grip on me, and John the Pastor declares triumphantly that “God is greater than our hearts” “whenever our hearts condemn us” (v.20). At the center of my soul, I am encouraged.
The root of the word “encourage” is cuore, meaning “heart.” So:
This definition works on so many levels, not least of which is the first bit, “to inspire.” John finds the ultimate encouragement and lasting assurance in the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, which we say “inspires” us. C.S. Lewis, in his literary exploration of what Christ’s resurrection means, demonstrates beautifully this profound encouragement we have because of Easter:
Then at last, as they stood for a moment looking out toward the sea and Cair Paravel (which they could now just make out) the red turned to gold along the line where the sea and the sky met and very slowly up came the edge of the sun. At that moment they heard from behind them a loud noise–a great cracking, deafening noise as if a giant had broken a giant’s plate.
“What’s that?” said Lucy, clutching Susan’s arm.
“I–I feel afraid to turn around,” said Susan; “something awful is happening.”
“They’re doing something worse to Him,” said Lucy. “Come on!” And she turned, pulling Susan round with her.
The rising of the sun had made everything look so different–all colors and shadows were changed–that for a moment they didn’t see the important thing. Then they did. The Stone Table was broken into two pieces by a great crack that ran down it from end to end; and there was no Aslan.
“Oh, oh, oh!” cried the two girls, rushing back to the table.
“Oh, it’s too bad,” sobbed Lucy; “they might have left the body alone.”
“Who’s done it?” cried Susan. “What does it mean? Is it more magic?”
“Yes!” said a great voice behind their backs. “It is more magic.” They looked around. There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.
“Oh, Aslan!” cried both the children, staring up at him, almost as much frightened as they were glad.
“Aren’t you dead then, dear Aslan?” said Lucy.
“Not now,” said Aslan.
“You’re not–not a–?” asked Susan in a shaky voice. She couldn’t bring herself to say the word ghost. Aslan stopped his golden head and licked her forehead. The warmth of his breath and a rich sort of smell that seemed to hang about his hair came all over her.
“Do I look it?” he said.
“Oh, you’re real, you’re real! Oh, Aslan!” cried Lucy, and both girls flung themselves upon him and covered him with kisses.
~ C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
I love the moment when Aslan gives Susan a great lion kiss, and his breath fills her with hope and joy and assurance. This is the inspiration that is ours because Christ walked out of the tomb whole. Amen. Alleluia!