What a Chinese Character Can Teach Us About the Heart of God
Understanding the meaning behind each stroke
I have just returned from four days in Beijing and three days in Hong Kong speaking and working for The Steward’s Journey. It is always a blessing to be with our wonderful brothers and sisters in this amazing land. We attended church at Beijing International Christian Fellowship, a Spirit-filled congregation that symbolizes the richness of the diversity of the body of Christ. In the sermon, Pastor Paul Durbin introduced us to the Chinese character for love and the importance of each pen stroke. As I listened I was moved by the deep meaning embedded in each stroke of ink on paper.
Here is the symbol.
This complex character is made up of four parts. Each has its own meaning and the interplay between them is fascinating. The center part of this character is:
This is the symbol for the heart. It’s not surprising that the heart would be at the center of the character for love. It is the seat of passion and compassion from which love flows.
What is surprising is the symbol above it:
This is the symbol for a covering. Like a lid on top of a pot it holds things down, restricts and constrains whatever is underneath it. Why does the character for love depict a covering over the heart? Perhaps – and I’m now reading our faith into this character – perhaps the creators of the symbol recognized our basic sinfulness that works in us like a heavy blanket over our hearts. Perhaps it is a recognition that, left to ourselves, we can never love as God created us to love.
My reason for this speculation is the third stroke. Above the covering we find this symbol:
This is the symbol for a claw, a talon that is reaching down from heaven to tear away at this covering. It is as if God recognizes our dilemma and acts on our behalf to shred the barriers to our ability to love. In His clawing, He lets our heart escape that we may live out the purpose for our creation – to love God with our whole heart and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. In this symbol the heart is set free to love through the redeeming act of the Creator.
The final symbol lies underneath the rest. It is this:
This is the character for friendship, for reaching out, moving outside oneself. It is the character used for pursuing and chasing. It is the symbol for a quest, an intentional journey taken with urgency. It completes the picture by putting the emancipated heart into action. Once unleashed, the heart is free to move toward others in acts of kindness and selflessness. In this way, the Chinese character for love is a verb, not a noun. It does not symbolize a state but a pursuit.
I am fascinated with the idea in this symbol that the capacity to love is beyond us. It is only made possible by the God who pursues us in love, clawing away everything that keeps us from loving as He loves. I wondered what coverings I have allowed to seal my heart? Cynicism? Apathy? Pride? Fear? Unresolved anger? Lack of forgiveness?
How about you? Will you allow God to tear away the coverings on your heart? Will you surrender to Him and ask that He set your heart free to love as He loves? Only the claw from heaven can release you to a life of joyful service and selfless generosity. I encourage you to pray today that God would reveal to you the coverings that keep your heart in bondage. Then ask that God would tear through that barrier and set your heart free to love Him, to love yourself, to love your neighbor, and, yes, even to love your enemies. To God be the glory!