THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS by Ronald W. Nikkel

This is so good that that I need to post it. It’s by Ron Nickel the President of Prison Fellowship International.

            “When exactly did you give your heart to the Lord?”

            His question hung suspended between us like a frozen pendulum; I hesitated, wondering how best to reply.  If he had asked me how long I have believed in the Lord, I could have told him that I have always believed – for as long as I can remember I have more or less believed.  Of course there was a period of time during my studies at the university when I talked and lived like an agnostic, but deep down I still believed.  I was born into a family of believers, and was raised believing, in much the same way as I was raised Canadian.  It is who I am.

            The question of heart is a much more difficult question for me than the question of belief.  I have always been a Canadian and have never had to make a decision to accept being or becoming Canadian, because I was born one.  However, I have friends who, as immigrants from other countries, made deliberate decisions to relinquish the citizenship of their birth and become naturalized Canadian citizens.  But I have never been tempted to become a citizen of another country; and I have never seriously considered being anything other than a Christian believer, even though I’ve been criticized for being closed minded, unscientific, and archaic.

            Believing in Christ is not only where I come from, I just don’t see any better alternatives – especially when I view the world through the bars of a prison cell.  Unbelief has nothing to offer when human dignity is denied, decency destroyed, and depravity celebrated.  There is no way out of such human degradation and guilt, and alternative beliefs fall short of the unmerited grace, forgiveness, and love by which God triumphs over evil. 

            So, yes, I believe

            When, exactly, did I give my heart to the Lord though?  I struggle with this question all the time.  To me “heart” implies something infinitely deeper than thoughts or beliefs or even feelings and inclinations.  When we speak of “the heart of a matter” we refer to its real essence, its core, and its very centre.  The heart of a person is that most vital organ which keeps blood, life itself, flowing to every fibre of his or her being.  Without a heart, life ceases.  When a heart is diseased, life suffers.  Giving my heart to Jesus implies that I am not just turning my thoughts toward Him; I am turning my core reality over to Him – to let my heart and life be infused with His.  That isn’t just a matter of the mind, or of believing.

            For me, every day involves the struggle of yielding my heart to the Lord.  It is not a once-and-for-all, done deal, like a decision I made to buy an insurance policy.  Of course it began with believing, but it continues day-by-day in allowing my heart to flow with the essence of Jesus’ life.

There is an image that I find both compelling and disturbing, an icon depicting the “Sacred Heart of Jesus.”  The icon shows Jesus with wounded hands exposing his pierced heart, a bleeding heart surrounded by a crown of thorns, a heart aflame with fire.  The heart aflame represents the essence of his life – that passionate love by which he willingly laid aside His own interests and prerogatives for the sake of giving life to the vilest of scoundrels and sinners.  When I meditate on the message of the “Sacred Heart of Jesus,” I know that far too much of my heart still belongs to me and that as much as I believe in Him, I am still in the painful process of giving my heart to Him – of turning away from selfishness and pride and turning with love and mercy toward others.

Lord our God

Grant us the grace to desire you with our whole heart

That so desiring, we may seek and find you;

And so finding you we may love you

And loving you we may hate those sins

From which you have redeemed us.

— St. Anselm of
Canterbury   


Conversatio Morum is brought to you weekly by Prison Fellowship International Ron Nikkel is the president of Prison Fellowship International  To comment on or subscribe to Conversatio Morum, e-mail conversatiomorum@pfi.org  © 2007 by Prison Fellowship International

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Reprints permitted with acknowledgement

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