Compass of the heart

We recently got a GPS for our car.  A GPS (Global Position System) is a kind of  compass.  It’s a high-tech device that plots the position of your car from a number of satellites in stationary orbit above the earth.  By taking several readings, the device can tell the driver where exactly he or she is.  And it literally “tells” you where you are—it has a voice that speaks.

A GPS can also tell the driver how to get to any destination. On a small screen attached to your dashboard, it will show the route to take, and can also point out other details, such as nearby hospitals, restaurants and parks.

But a GPS is not infallible.  Sometimes it can give wrong directions.  This happened during a recent trip.  We were on a back road deep in the countryside of an unfamiliar area.  I knew the general direction of the town we were trying to get to, that it was to our left.  But the GPS kept telling us, “Turn right at the next intersection.”

We could say that our conscience is a kind of GPS, designed to give us moral directions.  Sometimes our conscience functions well.  But sometimes, due to improper maintenance or the pull of a disordered social environement, our conscience malfunctions and gives us the wrong direction.  And that is the human problem—our internal  conscience compass has gotten corrupted.

The good news is that God offers us a new compass to live by.  In our Old Testament scripture for Sunday, March 22, the prophet Jeremiah talks about a better kind of internal GPS that God wants to give us:  “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people”  (31:33).   That internal “law” is the software that will keep us going in the direction that is best for us and those with whom we live.

One place we acquire and maintain that new, internal compass of the heart is in the church.   In regular worship with our fellow members of the people of God, through listening, reflecting, singing, praying, studying, asking, and receiving the active grace of God, we keep renewing our hearts and minds in Christ.  And when that happens, Jeremiah’s promise is fulfilled:  God graciously, intimately writes on our hearts the direction God wishes us to go.   Our internal GPS keeps us on the right road–and tells us to “turn left” (and not right) when we should turn left.

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