The Way of the Heart
From third century Christian tradition…young hermit tells an elder: I know the objective of life, what God asks of us, and the best way of serving him—I’m just not capable of doing all that I should. The elder is quiet for while then says: You know about a city on the far side of the ocean, but you haven’t found a ship, loaded your bags, or crossed the sea. Why spend time imagining what it’s like to walk its streets? Knowing the objective of life and how to serve the Lord is not enough. Put into practice that which you think, and the way will be revealed all by itself.
Two hundred years earlier, the first Jewish followers of Jesus agreed. Calling themselves talmidey orha—Followers of the Way in Aramaic, they were making an emphatic statement. If their primary focus was on the Way Jesus lived and loved rather than the historical person himself, then their primary focus was on action rather than thought. A very Jewish trait. They were saying with their lives that they understood Jesus’ message to be a way of living, not just thinking or believing.
Jesus said that we will be known as his followers by the way we love each other, that if we live as he lives and love as he loves we will do the things he has done and experience the truth that liberates. He is telling us flat out that our action defines us as followers, not our belief or belonging systems. He said he himself is the Way and Truth and Life and no one comes to the father but through him. This is the ultimate exclusionary statement for those of us who still see gospel as primarily a creed, a specific way of thinking and believing necessary for God’s approval, rather than the abandonment of self it takes to live the Way Jesus lived as necessary to realize we are approved already.
Really good news.
The way of the mind—our thoughts and beliefs—can take us right to the door of the connected life Jesus calls Kingdom. But only Jesus’ Way—the way of the heart, contemplative practice—brings us through. It’s been seventeen hundred years since the Way of the heart identified Western Christians as followers of Jesus.