Last Monday, I met President Soon-Hong Chang from Handong Global University. In our conversation, President Chang said, “If I were to be a pastor, I would like to establish a warm church.” As he ruminated on his church life in his youth, he said that he likes a warm church more than a cold church. As I was conversing with President Chang, I began to question myself, “What kind of church is a warm church?”
I like warm things. It’s been very hot lately, but I like it better than being cold. A warm church is established through warm hearts. A warm heart is a gentle heart. Gentleness means that there’s warmth and tenderness. We all like a warm and tender person. We do not like a cold and stiff person. Whenever we encounter people, we feel a sense of warmth. Some people feel warm and the others feel cold. If we want to be warm people, we must know how to cultivate a warm heart.
In order to cultivate a warm heart, we must understand why warmth is important. Every life gains strength by warmth. On the other hand, life ceases to exist in coldness. Winter is cold. In the cold winter climate, a flower doesn’t bloom. Spring is warm, so all creation comes alive. Flowers are in full bloom. Dying things are cold. When cold is prolonged, things become hard and stiff. In contrast, things that are full of life are warm. When warmth is sustained, it becomes soft and tender. A cold corpse becomes hardened. But look at a new born baby. A new born baby is warm and soft. Hard things don’t last long, but soft things last a long time. A tongue is soft, but a tooth is hard. I have seen people with broken or missing tooth but I have never seen a person with broken or missing tongue. Being warm and soft is the secret of lasting long.
Just as our bodies have temperature, our hearts also have temperature. Our body temperature is closely related to the food we consume. What we eat and drink determine the temperature of our body. A large amount of the food we consume are used to maintain the temperature of our body. In a similar way, the temperature of our heart is influenced by the spiritual food and mental food that we consume. There is a spiritual food that makes our heart warm. It is the Word of God. In addition, good books can be the mental food that makes our heart warm. We must examine ourselves. Examine yourself on which book has made your heart feel warm. Examine yourself on who makes your heart feel warm. Examine yourself on the state of your heart that has made you feel warm.
When we love, our hearts become warm. In contrast, our hearts become cold when we hate someone. A loving heart is a considerate and understanding heart. A loving heart is a heart that embraces, encourages, and forgives. In contrast, a hateful heart is a cold heart. When hate permeates, the heart becomes cold. When hate permeates, we become critical and begin to judge and condemn others. That’s when our heart becomes cold. Moreover, a vengeful and hardened heart is a cold heart.
When we respect, our heart becomes warm. To respect each other means to value one another. A heart that values others is the heart that cherishes others. If we don’t discriminate against people but respect and value everyone that we encounter, then we will experience our hearts becoming warm. On the other hand, when we despise each other and disrespect others, our hearts become cold. Everyone wants to remain next to the one who values them. Everyone wants to remain next to the one who acknowledges, trusts, and cultivates them.
Just as we cultivate a garden, we must cultivate our heart. When a garden is not cultivated, it becomes full of weeds. It is the same for our heart. When our hearts are not cultivated, our hearts will also be full of weeds. We must regularly pull out the weeds that make our hearts cold. When our heart becomes warm, our expressions become warm. A warm smile makes this world warm. When our hearts become warm, our words become warm. As we experience, this world is very cold. I would like our church to make this cold world warm through the gospel of love. Thank you so much for your warm love that makes our church a warm church and community.
Reverend Joshua Choon-Min Kang is the senior pastor of New Life Vision Church, located in Los Angeles. This is one of the weekly letters he writes to his congregation. For the original, visit www.nlvc.org.