Ezekiel reports that God will remove our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh that will allow us to receive God’s Spirit that will move us to follow God’s decrees. Jesus told the Pharisees that it was because of the hardness of hearts that Moses wrote the law of divorce, Paul told the Romans that hard and impenitent hearts lead to storing up wrath and to the Ephesians he said that ignorance was due to the hardening of hearts.
It seems that with hard hearts we fail to listen to God, remain in ignorance, fail to act on God’s decrees resulting in storing up wrath for ourselves. But Ezekiel reminds us that God is willing to remove our hardened hearts and open up an alignment with God’s intentions and plans for our lives. For most of human history the heart was viewed as the place where all kinds of feelings were stored. Today we know that the heart referred to here is the ‘seat’ of one’s personality and believed to reside in the eternal human soul along with the mind, the conscience and free will.
It is our minds that are receptive or non-receptive to God’s guidance of our lives. Today we call that understanding neuroscience. Our brains have some “automatic” functions that help us to survive, but much of what controls our lives comes from choices we make, our core values, our worldview and our lifestyle. The point of the biblical references to “hard hearts” is that not only does God endow us with the freedom to be open to God’s Spirit – God desires to connect with our minds to help us align with that Spirit. Closed minds and “hard hearts” are not open to receive God’s Spirit of Truth.
Paul anticipated neuroscience when he spoke about how we can have the mind of Christ in which we become new creations. When we see or feel “hard hearts”, we should remember that they come from our minds when unaligned with the mind of Christ and that God offers a mind-changing Spirit to help us. Pursuing the attributes of goodness, kindness, godliness, openness, brotherly affection and love will keep the heart receptive to hearing God and not becoming “Hard Hearted.”