12. 11 “Loving God with the Mind” November 2008
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus’ scribal interrogator quibbled about how to fulfill the Law in loving one’s neighbor. Like Pilate, people also hedge about truth—about loving God with one’s mind. “Test me, LORD. . .examine my heart and my mind” is a insightful proverb (Prov. 26: 2 TNIV) Hear what the Apostle Paul says to us on this subject:
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. . . . And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4: 7-9 TNIV)
Ancient philosophy named human goals the good, the true, and the beautiful. These still define areas of study. Ethics delineates the moral good, logic the tests for truth, and aesthetics the norms of beauty (“whatever is lovely”, to use Paul’s term). In subtle ways the tempter stirs people perversely to seek out or promote the bad, the false, and the ugly. Ponder Paul’s admonition: to let God’s peace guard our minds and guide them toward praiseworthy goals.
Loving God with my mind means discerning truth about myself. I am cautioned to esteem self “not more highly than I ought. . .” neither wallowing in self-pity nor swaggering in self-adulation. What’s a pitfall for educated minds? Skillful self-deception! We’re warned: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Cor. 10: 12TNIV). We are called to rise beyond an egoistic self, beyond a social self, to become a God-filled self.
Loving God with my mind means discerning truth about others. How strong are social pressures to treat my group as superior! And equally strong to exercise no moral judgments of any kind, blinding ourselves to offenses against the true, the good, and the beautiful. We need God’s help to make compassionate and rational judgments about others, so truth is honored as well as love. Let the Spirit quicken our minds to recognize how much we depend upon the knowledge and skills of others, and how important God-touched minds are for sustaining human community. Let’s be grateful for how much the Gospel has leavened and enlightened it.
Loving God with my mind means discerning truth about the material world. Abiding in God’s peace enables us better to see and understand God’s creation as it is, and what through God-directed stewardship it may become. Ignorance and sin cause suffering. Christians are called rationally to interrogate the material world—its stuff, its creatures, its energy, using sense, reason, and intuition rightly to interpret it, and to release its bounty for all humanity and to God’s glory. As bearers of the divine image let’s use our minds to understand, plan, adapt, reconfigure, and utilize the material world for the good of all. For Christians everyday is Earth Day. Whether it’s planting meringa trees in Africa or windmills in America, or dispensing health care, may Christians lead the world in appropriate technology. Loving God with the mind also includes intuitive wonder at the world itself. As Walt Whitman wrote: “I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars. . . . And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels.” (“Song of Myself”, in Leaves of Grass, Signet Classic, 1958, pp, 72-73)
Loving God with my mind means discerning truth about God. We love God because He first loved us, and demonstrated that love through Jesus Christ. Nestled in God’s peace we’re enabled to see and to rightly understand divine revelations in history and within the heart. A danger looms in doing theology, in reasoning about God. The danger is idolatry: reducing God to a professional specialty, a resource, or another art or musical genre. But another danger looms in not crafting rational constructs for spiritual experience. The danger is idolatry: reducing God to a useful social myth.
Truly “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Friends, never lose a sense of awe before the Lord! “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty!”
May the peace of God guard your minds!