I admit I am a big Andy Stanley fan. So when I got a copy of Enemies of the Heart to review, I had high expectations. For the most part, I was not disappointed.
The book is divided into four primary sections. The first section explains that our unwanted or embarrassing behaviors stem from issues of the heart. The things we think of as “slips” and “exceptions” to behavior reveal the true heart. The “slip” is not that we behaved in a way we don’t condone; the slip is that we let it sneak out past our guard. This truth shows the real condition of our hearts.
Andy relies on Matthew 15:1-20 to make the point that “evil thoughts” come from the heart rather than the mind. These evil thoughts, Andy reasons, interfere with all our relationships, even including our faith. The lesson is clear: we need to guard our hearts.
The second section deals with what Andy calls the four primary enemies of our hearts:
- Guilt – a feeling that we owe someone.
- Anger – a feeling that someone owes us.
- Greed – a feeling that we owe ourselves.
- Jealousy – a feeling that God owes us.
In essence, Andy details these as the primary culprits of bad attitudes and poor behavior in our lives. He calls each one a debt relationship and writes persuasively to support his argument. This section of the book was well-done and challenged my notions on several issues – particularly that jealousy finds its roots in the belief God owes us something. Yet, after reading Andy’s reasoning, I could not disagree.
I also loved something he wrote regarding holding onto anger: “Here’s a question every angry man and woman needs to consider: How long are you going to allow people you don’t even like — people who are no longer in your life, maybe even people who aren’t even alive anymore — to control your life? How long?”The third section of the book deals with how to overcome these enemies within. The crux is that secrecy gives strength to them, while openness helps us overcome them.
- Guilt is overcome by confession.
- Anger is defeated by forgiveness.
- Greed is overcome by generosity.
- Jealousy is defeated by celebration.
Along the way, Andy makes some key observations. For instance, Christ paid the penalty for our sins, but the consequences still linger. In keeping with categorizing the enemies of the heart as debt relationships, he cites the parable of the unforgiving slave in Matthew 18:21-35.
He then throws in a chapter on the fact our children learn by the behaviors we model and a chapter dealing with lust and how it is different from the four enemies he has focused on. These chapters form the fourth sections but felt a bit thin compared to the rich ideas in the rest of the book.
Overall, I was very pleased with the book. I think Andy struck a good balance and offers very practical guidance. The only real quibble I have is that I believe even these four enemies of the heart can be traced to a single root cause that Andy does not discuss: ego – our drive to usurp God from the throne of our lives.
Nonetheless, this is only a minor quibble. I very much enjoyed the book and heartily recommend it. I will be sharing it with my family and friends.
Disclosure – I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.