The Thief Who Changed His Heart To Change His World

The Holiness of the Here and Now – Part 4

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

–Luke 23:39-43 (ESV)

The two thieves crucified with Jesus, one good, one bad, did not have different things to do and to suffer in order to be saints. One thief sanctifies himself and gains eternal happiness by doing, in submission to the will of God, the same thing that the condemned thief does in submission only to his own delusions. This second thief condemned himself, suffering with complaining and regret. The thief who saved himself endured the same suffering, but with resignation. It is only the heart that is different.

–Jean Pierre de Caussade

The story of the two thieves crucified with Jesus gives us a picture of what Jean Pierre de Caussade meant when he said, “Do what you do. Suffer what you suffer. To make all of it holy, only your heart needs to change.” To the naked eyed, these two thieves appeared the same; they were both suffering a crucifixion. Yet inwardly, the difference is profound: one suffered in his delusions, and the other woke up to the truth. For both men, the physical suffering continued, and was very real. Suffering is not an illusion; it is an inescapable reality. But do we delude ourselves as we suffer? Sometimes. And does this self-delusion make things worse? Not only worse, but pointless. This is the dangerous power we each have: to make the meaningful meaningless, and to render the valuable worthless. This is the power of self-delusion. But you need not be the unrepentant thief. You can be the thief who changes. And this change of heart changes everything.

The Holiness of the Here and Now is a daily devotional that I am currently working on. When I am finished, there will be 365 chapters like the one above. Meanwhile, I am sharing this work-in-progress. Like the Facebook page to see content like this in your feed.