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Everyday Theology: Just Listen to Your Heart

Back in the 80’s, the Swedish pop group Roxette had a hit song called “Listen to your heart.” If you were either a fan of the group (I’m sorry) or survived the 80’s relatively unscathed (except for the odd Duran Duran flashback) you might remember.

Listen to your heart—when he’s calling for you
Listen to your heart—there’s nothing else you can do

Now you remember, don’t you?

Sadly, this awful song was in my head as I sat in the Zurich Airport waiting for my connection to London Monday morning (yeah, I know). But this song reminded me of something we all too frequently think is a good idea:

Just listen to your heart.

It makes for a great…err, well, it makes for a pop song, but it’s lousy theology. Why?

Because, “my heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick!” (Jer. 17:9)

I’ve written about this subject before, but it bears repeating:

Often the worst thing we can do is listen to our hearts. Because our hearts are naturally inclined to sin, they will always lead us to things that displease God, but seem right in our own eyes. The serpent’s tempting of Eve in the garden is a perfect example. He convinced her to distrust God, that He was holding out something really good from her and Adam. The text says, “[W]hen the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (Gen 3:6).

We can’t miss that—she saw that it was a delight to the eyes. It seemed like a good thing. Her feelings told her, “Go for it!”

And both she and the man did, which brings us to today; to a culture that continues to pummel us with the same message, over and over again: “Just listen to your heart. Do what feels right. You deserve it.”

For goodness’ sake, even theme song from the kid’s cartoon Arthur boldly proclaims, “You’ve got to listen to your heart [and] believe in yourself.” (My daughter loves that show, in case you were wondering.)

[Note: Incidentally, my awesome wife teaches Abigail that she should believe in God before herself and listen to the Bible before her heart every time the show comes on.]

We’ve seen over and over again that this simply doesn’t fly. Listening to our hearts only brings us trouble. We are commanded, to “Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them” (Deut. 11:16).

And we do, all the time. As John Calvin apparently said, “Our hearts are idol making factories.”

That is, unless they’re guided by the Holy Spirit and Scripture.

When we become Christians, God takes our old, dead hearts that were bent on sin and folly, and gives us new desires—desires to love Him, serve Him, worship Him alone. As the Holy Spirit renews our minds (see Rom. 12:2), He convicts us of sin, and makes us sensitive to those things that displease God. “[W]e can discern the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2), and we are transformed. We are free from being “conformed to this world,” “carrying out the desires of the body and mind” which made us, “by nature, children of wrath” (Eph 2:3).

So instead of listening to our hearts, let’s listen to God’s Word—because as you “delight yourself in the Lord, he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

6 thoughts on “Everyday Theology: Just Listen to Your Heart”

  1. Stanley J. Groothof

    Thinking about Ps 37:4, I often say, As we delight in the Lord, His desires will become our desires. Thanks for this “Everyday Theology” series. ~Stan

  2. I agree with your comments.

    However, I would tend to look at it less analytically.

    “Listen to your heart, when he’s calling for you” means to listen to God.

    “..before you tell him goodbye”, means to re-consider your faith before telling him goodbye.

  3. Other than being slightly put out that now I have annoying 80s songs in my head, great post, Aaron. And no, your wife is certainly not lax – we’ve done a bit of Arthur-watching ourselves.

    The “follow your heart” message is everywhere – from American Girl dolls the “do what’s right for you” philosophy. Swimming against the current is hard indeed – thanks for the reminder.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Heather – and sorry you’ve got annoying 80s songs in your head now. They sadly are still stuck in mine.

      What’s worse is that I recalled the lyrics to the chorus of “Listen to Your Heart” perfectly when I wrote this, but I’d not heard the song in probably 20 years.


  4. Thanks Aaron, now I look like a lax Christian mom because I let our kid watch Arthur.

    To clarify for the audience: I do take Arthur discs out of the library for Abigail, but we have a talk during the theme song every time she watches the show, when I remind her that we need to believe in God BEFORE we believe in ourselves, and listen to the Bible BEFORE we listen to our hearts.

    Aside from the theme song, the show is generally good at showing how to interact with peers in a positive way and solve problems. Abigail has learned more complicated sentences to express her feelings as well.

    1. I honestly cannot tell if you’re being funny or if you’re offended (because I never said or implied you were a lax Christian mom).

      I am confused.

      But I have added a note clarifying that you do teach Abigail that she should believe in God and listen to the Bible first.

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