An Understanding Heart (1 Kings 3:3-14)

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One of our family’s favourite movies is Disney’s Frozen. Even though it has been five years since its release, it still stands as the highest grossing animated movie of all time and, according to Wikipedia, the twelfth highest grossing movie of all time.

I have to admit, though, that I get uncomfortable whenever I hear Queen Elsa sing the words ‘No right, no wrong, no rules for me, I’m free’ in Let It Go, the most popular song from the movie. These lyrics reflect an increasingly common belief held by people in our society – that there is no such thing as right or wrong, there are no rules, and we are free to be and do whatever we want.

My concern with this view of life is that I have seen where it can often lead. In Frozen, it results in Queen Elsa living in fear, emotionally cold towards others, alone on a mountain. I have seen this same approach to life leaving people I have known over the years with broken relationships, trapped in fear, guilt or shame, relationally isolated, and wondering where life went so wrong.

Compare Queen Elsa’s words with those of King Solomon in 1 Kings 3:3-14. When I think of all the things Solomon could have asked God for, it amazes me that he requests ‘an understanding heart so that (he) can govern (God’s) people well and know the difference between right and wrong’ (v9 NLT). Instead of asking for freedom from rules so he could do whatever he wanted, Solomon asked God to give him what was literally a ‘hearing’ heart so he could tell the difference between what was right and wrong.

Solomon requested this because he knew that living in ways which are right and good lead us into a better life than ways which are wrong or bad. It’s like Jesus said in Matthew 7:13,14 – there is a road which leads to life, while other paths lead to destruction. The road that leads to life is hard to find and difficult to walk, but the ways that lead us to destruction are easy. Solomon was asking that he might be able to find the way that leads to life for himself and for his people by understanding the difference between right and wrong, good and evil.

In a time where we are being told that there is no right or wrong, not just from Frozen’s Elsa but from society in general, how do we discern the difference? A lot of people, including Christians, default to a set of rules. However, Jesus did not come to impose a set of rules for us to follow. John 1:17 tells us Moses did that, but Jesus came to bring us ‘grace and truth’ (NIV) instead.

When people came to Jesus to ask him what the was most important command, Jesus cut through a complicated religious system of rules and taught that it was love for God and love for others (see Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-31). Love gives followers of Jesus a new way to discern right from wrong. If something we say or do is done in love for God and other people, then we can consider it right. If, however, what we do is not in love for God or others, then it is wrong.

We actually see this in the movie Frozen. I don’t want to give too many spoilers in case some people haven’t seen the movie yet, but a theme in Frozen is that an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart. I remember watching the movie for the first time thinking, along with the Frozen characters, that this would be an act of romantic love, just like in other Disney movies. However, what saves Elsa’s sister Anna, and ultimately Elsa and their entire kingdom as well, turns out to be an act of sacrificial love instead.

I was really surprised, but also very glad, to find the gospel in Frozen. Rather than upholding a romantic view of love, it points us to a sacrificial love where one person gives everything for the sake of another. This love thaws hearts which have been frozen by fear and guilt, breathes new life into people, and brings the warmth of joy and salvation to the world. Sacrificial love gives us a new perspective and understanding of what is right and good.

Ultimately we find this love in Jesus and his death for us on the cross. Just like an act of true and sacrificial love saved Elsa and their kingdom in Frozen, Jesus’ selfless sacrifice of giving his life for us on the cross can warm our hearts so we don’t have live in fear, or rely on rules, or hide in a self-protective palace of ice. The love that God has for us in Jesus becomes the new standard of right and wrong for his followers, but it is also the way in which God warms our hearts so we can love him freely. The gift of God’s love to us in Jesus is the way he sets us free, restores our relationships with him and others, and gives us new life.

To live in this kind of love requires listening hearts. In 1 Kings 3:9, King Solomon literally asked for a ‘listening’ or a ‘hearing’ heart. When our hearts are listening to and hearing the good news of God’s love for us in the sacrifice of Jesus, it breathes new life into us and frees us from fear. It can be hard to know how to love people, to do what is right and good for them, especially people who are hard to love. We need to have hearts that are continually listening to God through his Holy Spirit so we can learn how to love others in a way that helps them encounter the heart-warming, life-saving love of Jesus through us.

I really enjoy Frozen and love the gospel message it gives. However, we also need to recognize the influence of our society’s worldview in it, as well as the influence it can have on our young people. King Solomon asked God to give him ‘an understanding heart’ so he could ‘know the difference between right and wrong’ and lead God’s people well. My prayer continues to be that all God’s people would have listening hearts, so we can tell the difference between what is right and wrong, and find the life to the full which Jesus promises us (John 10:10) through his sacrificial love.