On page 30 of Renovation of the Heart, Dallas Willard says,
When successful, spiritual formation (or, really, reformation) unites the divided heart and life of the individual. That person can then bring remarkable harmony into the groups where he or she participates.
The first thing that comes to mind when I read this is Psalm 86:11, “Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; Give me an undivided heart, that I might fear your name.” God seeks to make our heart one – to bring us unity and harmony on the inside. I know too well that I don’t always have that oneness of heart. My heart tugs me in different directions at the same time. Sometimes the forces seem to strong and so opposite each other that I imagine horses tied to my extremities, pulling with all their might. I year for the day God unifies my heart.
But as I think further, I see that it is a good thing our human hearts are not often united. A single heart, a heart focused truly on one thing, can be a powerful force. But a force for what? A force working toward what end?
At the Tower of Babel, God saw unity and harmony – world peace, some would call it. And God didn’t think it was a good thing because it was unity around the wrong thing, harmony in pursuit of an evil end. Seeing that unity, that harmony, God stepped in and brought confusion. We can read the confusion as a sign of judgment. I choose to see it as a sign of God’s mercy. Rather than let the people plunge headlong into destruction, God mercifully defocused them.
I believe God exercises similar mercy with us today. We’ve seen enough evil in our world to have some idea how much greater that evil would have been if the perpetrators had been truly single minded in their competency and focus. While we sometimes decry the problems caused by the good being distracted by the bad, evil or unimportant, we might forget that some problems are mitigated – or even eliminated – because the evil is distracted by the good or indifferent.
Though unity of heart and harmony of group are amoral in themselves, God seeks more. We see in Psalm 86 that what God is seeking is not mere unity of heart, but a unity of heart submitted to him, a unity of heart formed and fed in the context of worship and dependance on God.
I appreciate this, Richard. Good stuff!