Today, we released the June issue of our Brazilian magazine, called Edification. The theme for the month is “The Mind.” One brother in the northern part of São Paulo state wrote an article about parachutes. (As I recall, he is in the military and does jumps from planes.) The parachute works when it is open. A closed parachute is deadly. He compared the parachute to the mind which must be open to the Word of God. The closed mind leads to death.
This month, our theme on Forthright Magazine is the heart. The brother’s parachute illustration works well for the heart, also. The closed heart means lack of feeling for one’s brother in need. So said John.
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 1 John 3.17 ESV.
The original Greek wording has the idea of closing. But it doesn’t use the word “heart” in this verse. It uses the word for bowels or intestines. The ancients located the center of feelings there. (Much like we talk about butterflies in the stomach.) Moderns think of the heart as the place of emotions. So the ESV translation above is a fine one to communicate the idea. (Another point against literal translation.) Other versions do the same, such as the EHV, LEB, NASB, and NKJV.
The old ASV changed bowels to “compassion,” which is a fine rendering. A number of versions continue using it today, such as the NET, CSB, ISV, and NLT.
Using a different figure, which may have started with J.B. Phillips’s paraphrase, at least one version says “closes his eyes” (HSCB). Truly, one must see the brother in need, not only physically, but spiritually.
But how does that heart of compassion appear? John says it’s not a matter of just feeling something, but of taking action. It’s present in the context, but some versions translate that feeling in this verse to “refuse help” or something similar (CEB, NRSV, EXB, ERV, GW).
What can we draw from these versions’ renderings of the literal phrase, shutting up one’s bowels, to a brother in need? We need to feel something toward that brother: compassion, pity, desire to help. That feeling must lead us to actually do something, to help in order to meet the need.
The impulse must not be ignored. We must refuse Satan’s temptation to close down the desire to help. (It sometimes comes in the form of not wanting to interfere, or be misunderstood, or be involved.)
The Brazilian brother had a fine illustration of the open parachute which fulfills its purpose. Christians can fulfill their purpose when their compassionate hearts are open to the needs of their brothers and sisters in Christ and moved to provide what is needed.
You have purified your souls by obeying the truth in order to show sincere brotherly love. So love one another intensely from a pure heart. 1 Peter 1.22.