It's completely antithetical to the Gospel of God's Kingdom.
Allow me to step away from the proverb for a moment. Something God really impressed upon my heart last year was the fact that if I'm supposedly a part of this Kingdom where Jesus reigns, that means I no longer get to assume the throne in my own life. And another thing He really impressed upon me last year was the fact that submitting my life to Christ should lead to restored relationships in all facets of my life -- which I began to realize had a lot more to do with my choosing to love others selflessly than keeping up with a list of do's and don't's. This is where Christianity -- in its pure sense -- breaks away from all other religions. The main point is LOVE.
Now back to the proverb, how does a call to love selflessly fit in with the idea that we should "guard our hearts" by keeping a safe distance from certain people to ensure that we don't get hurt or disappointed? Well, if you ask me, it doesn't. It surely isn't what Jesus modeled during His time upon the earth, as He faced rejection, ingratitude, and betrayal time after time. These things never once caused Jesus to pull back and withhold His love. (Now, granted, He had harsh words for a few people, but if memory serves me correctly, those words were reserved for the religious leaders who were making it difficult for people to connect with Him. I've pointed this out before and I undoubtedly will again, simply because I think it's a truth too many of us have lost sight of in our quest for personal right-ness. But alas, I digress.)
If I am being transformed to look more like Jesus, why would I interpret a Scripture that urges me to guard my heart as a warning that I should somehow limit the investments I make in other people, lest I experience some form of pain as a result? Would it not be more reflective of His life to guard my heart against things like bitterness, jealousy, pride, and unforgiveness -- things that lead to broken relationships -- and to be willing to take the risk of caring deeply for other people, even if they don't all care deeply for me in return?
There is a scene in M. Night Shyamalan's film "The Village" in which the leader of the town in which the movie is set has allowed his blind daughter to venture beyond the sequestered, supposedly safe confines of their small community in order to seek advanced medicine for the badly-injured man she loves. The other leaders are appalled when they learn of this since their entire purpose in forming the community was to keep its members sheltered from the evils outside. As they voice their frustrations with his decision, he emphatically declares, "Yes, I have risked! I hope I am always able to risk everything for the just and right cause!" And what is that "just and right cause" but love? "The world moves for love," he says softly, moments later. "It kneels before it in awe."
I want to live my life with a willingness to risk for the sake of love. My friend Lisa who lives in Nicaragua wrote an affecting piece last September about a girl in her community who is living in this very tension, and it has stuck with me ever since. I know it is risky to love freely. I know at times it will lead to pain. But you know what? For one thing, pain is a little easier to bear when you know you're following a call to something beautiful. And for another thing, it's not all painful. Loving freely brings about a great deal of joy and beauty, too, that wouldn't be found without taking the risk of opening up your heart to other people.
So do yourself a favor. Guard your heart, but guard it against the fear of allowing it to do what it was made to do: LOVE. After all, elsewhere in the Bible we're told that perfect love drives out fear. In the words of Rend Collective Experiment, "Real love is not afraid to bleed." Yes, sometimes we will bleed. Jesus did. He seemed to believe it was a risk worth taking. And so do I.
I came across two great pieces on this topic yesterday. Click here or here if you're interested in reading them.