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Bless Your Heart

Bless Your Heart

       I’m told this is a Southern expression. The phrase has multiple meanings and was originally used to express genuine sympathy, but sometimes as an insult that conveys condescension, derision, or contempt. It may also be spoken as a precursor to an insult to mitigate its severity. Meanings are primarily imparted through context and tone.   While common in the South, it is primarily used by individuals who wish to "be sweet” and do not wish to "act ugly”.  “Bless your heart” is an expression used by some to mask real feelings. To understand the real meaning, pay attention to the words said just before “Bless your heart” or “Bless his/her heart.”
    The term “heart” can be found 833 times in the KJV Bible.  “Bless” is found about 127 times.  The phrase “your heart” is found 35 times.  As you may have deduced, “Bless your heart” is not found in God’s Word at all.  The word ‘bless’ in the N.T. Greek means ‘to speak well of’.  But this seems to be the opposite of how folks use “bless” in the title of this article. We should desire others to ‘speak well’ of us, especially if we are Christians.
    In Matt. 5:44, Jesus was speaking to some Jews who would soon be granted the great opportunity to obey the gospel (become Christians) and become part of the kingdom.  Christianity was not available at that time as Christ had not yet died on the cross to purchase the church.  As Jesus offered these Pentecost Pointers, He said: But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 
    If and when they submitted themselves to God under the N.T. Law, they would need to apply this advice because they would have many enemies and even some of their fellow Jews would hate them, spitefully use them and even persecute them.  This is abundantly evident when we consider the treatment the apostles received in the early days of the church.  Multiple passages show the mistreatment they suffered for the cause of Christ.
    The same idea that Jesus put forth to that crowd in the Sermon on the Mount is also conveyed by the Spirit in the New Testament to the brethren at Rome.  “Bless” is utilized twice in Rom. 12:14. In both instances, the idea of ‘speaking well of’ is being conveyed. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. The word “bless” in this verse is used in contrast with “cursing” the ones who had victimized them.  This is the same idea and intent we find in 1Cor. 4:11-13 as the Spirit had Paul tell them about some of the oppression the apostles endured.  Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; 12 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: 13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. 
    In 1Cor. 4:14 we see that this was written to them for their benefit and as a warning.  I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. This warning is necessary because the ‘natural inclination’ of man is to retaliate ‘in kind’, or in the same way they had been treated. I suspect this is a misapplication of the Old Testament “an eye for an eye” in Lev. 24:19-20: “And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him; 20 Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again.”  But Jesus explained this in Matt. 5:38-39 (while still under the Old Testament Law) to the people gathered to receive those Pentecost Pointers.  He said: Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 
    Rather than a Christian being contemptuous toward their “enemies” (or those that ‘curse them’), or even those in opposition to Christ, we read the divine teaching and admonition regarding this in Rom. 12:20-21. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.  For one to be “overcome with evil” is to invite eternal condemnation.  Those who “curse” folks who persecute them forfeit the opportunity to teach them the truth.  One cannot reach someone if they have alienated them.  If we cannot reach one with the gospel, how can they be truly ‘blessed’? 
     Speaking of ‘heart’, we perhaps need to remind all that the Bible ‘heart’ is the mind of man.  It is the ‘mind’ or ‘soul’ of man that needs to be blessed of God by being cleansed by the blood of Christ. If indeed one is ‘spiritually blessed’, they must be “in Christ”.  This can be seen clearly in Eph. 1:3 and also shows that “bless your heart” is not always a negative thing. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ
    It is my desire that every soul be truly and spiritually blessed. This is the same desire the Spirit had Paul express in Rom. 10:1. He wrote: Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. He also stated that they were not saved because they refused to submit themselves to God. Submit yourself to God and His Will today.  Read, study and obey the Word of God.  Become His child and be ‘in Christ’.  God will ‘speak well of you’ in saying “Bless Your Heart”.  

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

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