Ever notice that despite our best efforts, more often than not your life doesn’t resemble a movie? That’s because movies have the ability to develop completely unrealistic plots that can rarely occur in real life. We started a new series called Heartless, based on the backstory of the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz, which in truth would appear to be a little far-fetched.

After all, heartless is a sub-plot to a fairy tale children’s movie. It could never happen in real life.  No one could lose their way and their heart like that in real life. There are no heartless people, especially those who are followers of Jesus. Heart related issues are problems that non-Christians face, not those that are Christians.  All we need to do is to be vigilant and block all the bad stuff from entering our heart, right?

Well, yes and no. Yes, the goal is to keep the heart pure, but we also need to open the eyes of our heart and invest our lives into people, loving them from the heart. We should not board up our heart as a means of guarding it  Because when self-protection rules our hearts, taking initiative is the hardest part in cultivating warm-hearted love. It would be so much easier to respond to warm-heartedness from another, because that way, we are less vulnerable.  We need to make the commitment to be the first to open up. As Christians, it is easy to be so inwardly focused that we lose sight of opening our hearts wide to others. 2 Corinthians 6:11 says, “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open.”

You may have heard the tragic news that Matthew Warren, the 27-year-old son of Pastor Rick Warren and his wife, Kay, died. When I heard the news, my heart went out to them. I could not imagine what Rick and Kay Warren were experiencing during this, the most difficult season of their life. But while they are dedicated servants of God who have impacted the lives of untold thousands of people through the ministry of Saddleback Church and his best selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, they are a family of real people with breakable hearts.

But, Rick Warren’s personal tragedy has not only garnered sympathy and condolences from around the world, but also online criticism from his detractors. Some of those attacks have come from people calling themselves Christians. As Christians, we need to have a heart for those in pain. We need to have a heart for those in our church family and look for ways to build up the body. We cannot let someone become heartless like the Tin Man because nobody was paying attention and intervened.

It is safe to say that at one time in our life we have had unexpected situations arise that appear unjust, irrational, or even painful. Adversity is hard to endure and can even be harder to understand. When it does, we feel confused and frustrated. And before long, we begin to doubt God’s concern for us or His control over our lives because we get caught with up with the devastating feelings of hurt, abandonment, and doubt.

One thing is for certain. The trials and tribulations in people’s lives will change them for better or for worse. It will change you. Your heart will grow stronger or it will get weaker. The same can be said of the relationship with God.

The church family can help those facing pain or tragedy in their lives if we look for opportunities to reach out and help those in need. We are to feel the pain that others feel. We are to put ourselves in their circumstances. We are to practice the Golden Rule, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.…” (Matt. 7:12)

Perhaps the most comprehensive command Jesus gave was the well-known “Love one another.” John 13:34 says. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”  John 13:35 says “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This command is such a fundamental statement of our Christian duty that it is repeated and repeated: John 15:12, 17; Rom. 13:8; 1 Thess. 4:9; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11-12; and 2 John 1:5. This is the attitude we should always have with one another. Paul wanted the Roman Christians and himself to be “mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Rom. 1:12). The purpose of small groups is to do exactly that. “Encourage one another daily” (Heb. 3:13).

Tragedies facing those around us are ubiquitous, but so is the solution. The solution is us. For you and me to start loving. Because genuine human community is one of God’s greatest weapons against the isolation, despair, and pain in our lives. If we open our hearts, if we are willing to take a risk, God will give us wisdom and tenderness as we reach out to others who are suffering.

If we open our hearts we may stop someone from finding themselves like the Tin Man in Heartless.