Hearing And the Heart 


Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years.” (Hebrews 3:7-9)

While knowing that the people you are talking to actually hear you is very affirming, there still is a difference between listening to someone and putting into practice what they say. So, the author of Hebrews in the quote above notes: you can hear God’s voice but then harden your heart against doing what God is asking of you. It is not enough simply to hear God, for one’s heart needs to be as receptive to God’s message as one’s ears.  Hearing God means allowing God’s word to enter not just the ear canal, but into one’s heart.


In the 5th Century, St Mark the Ascetic offered advice to Christian leaders:

“If someone does not obey you when you have told him once, do not argue and try to compel him; but take for yourself the profit which he has thrown away. For Forbearance will benefit you more than correcting him.

In other words, if you have wisdom to offer to others in the church and are in a position of authority over them, and they will not listen to you, take your wisdom to heart and think about how to live it in your own life.  Wisdom is not just something to be offered to others, it is to be lived, which makes it valuable.  Rather than be annoyed at those who won’t listen to you, practice forbearance with them, and live the wisdom you are offering. Jesus taught a similar thing:  “And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it, and stay with him until you depart. As you enter the house, salute it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you” (Matthew 10:11-13).


However, even for St Mark there is a limit to how tolerant, patient and forbearing you should be.

When the evil conduct of one person begins to affect others, you should not show long-suffering; and instead of your own advantage you should seek that of the others, so that they may be saved. For virtue involving many people is more valuable than virtue involving only one.”   (THE PHILOKALIA Vol 1, p 144)


The time to speak up is when you can see the bad behavior of someone is badly affecting many others.  Then for the sake and salvation of these others, you speak up and point out the malfeasance of the wrongdoer.  You do this not to shore up your position but only to help protect those being misled or abused by the person going astray.  If one person wants to go astray, that is their business.  If they begin to lead others astray, then it is time to confront them and show the others where they are going wrong.