Dr. Wilber Alexander, Clinical Professor of
Summary: We keep trying to bring religion down to earth when its very nature demands that it be lifted higher and still higher in our thoughts. Think of the great themes of redemption, the mystery of godliness, the work of the Holy Spirit, and the life and teachings of Jesus. Deep calls unto deep. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy mind.
With all your mind. ?The marked weakness in present-day Christianity is that Christians do not actually know much about it,? the leader of one of the world’s largest Protestant denominations told a newspaper reporter.
He added: ?The shallow, pat, party-line, sentimental approaches to Christianity have become a stumbling block to the uncommitted intelligentsia in all the world. Christian life cannot be built on the foundations of superficial intellectual preparations. It must be grounded in a sturdier understanding of what Christianity stands for and why.?
At this time in church history, Christians are in grave danger of becoming spiritually illiterate because we are not seriously, studiously investigating for ourselves the truth we profess. If we do not begin anew to know not only what we believe but why we believe it, great tragedy will ensue in the cause of Christianity and great disappointment to the God who gave us minds with the capacity to think His thoughts after Him.
In this light, I share with you our sermon text: ?An expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ?Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? ’?What is written in the law?’ He replied. ?How do you read it?’ He answered, ?Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, love your neighbor as yourself.’ ?You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied, ?Do this and you will live’ ?(Lk 10:25-28).
The allness of love. The words of the lawyer are in part the words of Shema: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God the Lord is one: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your strength (Dt 6:4, 5).
These parchment-recorded words opened the synagogue service and were repeated twice each day. They were worn on the phylacteries and inscribed on the doorposts of Jewish dwellings. The Shema, or Great Commandment, was not forgotten. The problem was that the words were not understood by the lawyer or by those around him.
The rabbis and lawyers calculated that their law contained 365 prohibitions and 248 positive commands. Jesus compressed these 613 declarations under the allness of love.
He answered, ?Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, love your neighbor as yourself.?(Lk 10:27). This is the ultimate reach in religion.
God creates man with capacity for loving with his entire being, his whole moral nature, all of his emotional faculties, all of his energy, all of his intellect. Then ? He commands men everywhere to love because of privilege, not duty. Jesus is saying very personally that love is a force within that seeks full release, rather than a vacuum continually craving to be filled.
If your love is to be acceptable to God, if it is to be adequate in influencing your life, then in total response you must give heart, soul, strength, and mind to God. Partial devotion of any of your faculties will leave you with a divided life. It will leave you stricken with a spiritual schism which cripples your Christianity and robs the world of your influence.
The mind’s love for God. We must recognize the biblical concept of the wholeness of man. At the same time there appear to be certain separate functions within this wholeness as shown in the words of the text: heart, soul, strength, and mind. It is the mind’s love for God that is most puzzling. That the mind has affections which it must give to God is strange to us.
The great American preacher, Phillips Brooks, illustrates this point. Anyone who has walked in the fresh morning quietness of a garden can go away and remember with delight the beauty he has discovered with the seeing eyes, the hearing ear, the sense of smell. He can love that garden through his senses.
If that same garden is familiar, crowded with memories from childhood, youth, and manhood, it is easy to love the garden and what it holds of past and present with all the heart—all that is emotional. If we see God’s creative hand at work and recognize that the garden is possible through One who loves us, that it symbolizes even richer spiritual benefits, it is easy to love the garden with the spiritual that is within.
If we are green-thumbed gardeners who love digging and planting in the soil, the garden might call forth our physical energies for enhancing its beauty. Beyond these is yet an unclaimed part of us. In the garden are relationships between countless things which should set our curiosity astir: the sun above, the elements in the earth, the seed, the plant, the eye which observes, the feelings within.
Pressing past the senses and emotions to the intelligence, the great truths of the natural world are found in that garden—great questions and great answers. The curious mind responds enthusiastically, analytically to its mysteries and is not at rest until all that can be known is known. Jesus tells us what God wants from His own: Tender emotions, thanksgiving for His mercies, worship in His creation and in His house, the expending of energies, the deeds performed are not enough. He wants the full measure of heart, soul, strength, and mind. He wants the enthusiastic use of our intellects intent on knowing all that is possible to know about Him and His ways.
Loving God with all the mind. It is a law of the mind that it will narrow or expand to the dimensions of the things with which it becomes familiar. The mental powers will surely be contracted, and will lose their ability to grasp the deep meanings of the word of God, unless they are put vigorously and persistently to the task of searching for truth. (Fundamentals of Christian Education, 127).
Love is robbed of its power when we push God into the periphery of our thought. Too often we give our minds to science, art, and music, when theology is the queen of all intellectual disciplines, basic to an understanding of all other knowledge.
We believe in the priesthood of every believer, yet we depend too much on spoon-feeding from other minds for our spirituality. We have tucked away in our minds the pat key texts and arguments given to us, and these have become final.
We keep trying to bring religion down to earth, to reduce it to peace-of-mind formulae, when its very nature demands that it be lifted higher and still higher in our thoughts. Think of the great themes of redemption, the mystery of godliness, the work of the Holy Spirit, and the life and teachings of Jesus. Deep calls unto deep. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy mind.
The appeal in the great commandment is for a mind dedicated to the continual search for spiritual truth ? The invitation is for a mind willing to patiently gather all information possible, willing to seek God rather than challenge Him, willing to spend hours seeing the relationship between spiritual ideas, concepts, and life. The entreaty is for a mind willing to pray for and to follow God’s guidance, willing to be changed into harmony with His mind.
?Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy mind.? No life is long enough for entire obedience to this command. There is always more to know. As Paul says, ?Now we see through a glass darkly? (I Cor 13:12).
??And now abides faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love? (I Cor 13:13). In these complex days when doubt and skepticism threaten to destroy man’s feeble faith, we must hold fast in love to imperfect faith and study to perfect it as much as is humanly possible. God has given enough evidence on which to build a faith to live by if we will examine it carefully.
The Apostle Peter admonishes Christians to love God with all the mind when he says, ?Prepare your minds for action, be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed? (I P 1:13).
Here is a call, fellow Christians, to roll up the sleeves of the mind and go to work on the Bible, on the commentaries, on the great themes of the gospels, on the life and teachings of Jesus, on the doctrines of this church, and see what relevance they have for us today.
We should pray to God that He will not let us rest satisfied with an inherited Christianity which has never entered our minds beyond first examination and mental assent. We are in danger of perpetuating a dead orthodoxy, a dead Christianity, unless we really know what we believe and continue to study for more truth.
We know that God commands us to love with all the mind. We know by experience that our mental powers lose their ability to grasp truth unless they are constantly searching for truth. We know that we cannot witness intelligently for Christianity unless we are intelligent Christians, because we have not seen, we have not handled, we have not touched the thing we are trying to declare. We know the joy of experiencing something of the things of God for ourselves.
The great question remains: what difference will these thoughts make in your life after this hour of worship?