Friday, 17 October 2008

you shall love the Lord your God...with all your understanding...

Have you ever heard it said "as long as the heart is right the head doesn't matter?" Sometimes it is heard in Christian meetings and gets a firm "amen". One of the people, however, who would disagree with this would be Jesus Christ himself. When asked which was the greatest commandment he quoted from Deuteronomy and declared, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength..." (Mark 12) Apparently it is not enough to love God with "all my heart"; I am expected to love him with all my heart AND with all my soul, AND with all my mind, AND with all my strength. This has nothing to do with basic human intelligence. The university professor is required to love God with 100% of his human capacities, and so is the man who sweeps his front porch. This is not measuring one man's ability against another but insisting that every man (and every woman) gives all that is his (hers) to God. The man who sweeps the front porch may well be more successful in keeping this commandment than the man with the super-brain.

In Matthew's account of the parable of the soils judgment falls upon those who have heard but not 'understood'. Is this fair? Well, yes it is if the basis is percentage and not weight! In sheer brain power the professor may have 10 units of brain power but only give 5, the porch sweeper may only have 5 units but if he gives 5 he has fulfilled the commandment and the professor has failed. We are expected to engage our minds in understanding God's truth and those who refuse to do so fail to keep the commandment. We are not expected to be mere spectators in our encounter with the truth of God; we are expected to exert all our powers in understanding what he is saying to us.

This is one of the keys. This kind of understanding is based on 'revelation' and not information. God has many ways of bringing us into contact with the truth but that initiative must be his. However, when God has 'revealed' truth to us we must respond to that truth "...with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength." This is not necessarily a lonely exercise. The ancient people of God were instructed to "talk" about God's truth in their homes and in their journeys; understanding is often a team-game. What we cannot do is to say "oh, I don't understand these things I will leave them to the Bible students." We must 'consider' and 'reason' and 'ponder' the revealed truths of God and exert all our powers to understand what God is saying.

In the letter to the Colossians Paul refers to the 'full assurance of understanding'. It is as we 'consider' and 'understand' the implications of God's word to us that 'assurance' comes to its 'fulness'. "Great peace" said the psalmist "have those who love your law and nothing will cause them to stumble". Of course, this is not arrogant self-assertive brain power but it is using all that God has given me in the service of the 'revelation' that he has trusted to me. It is not breaking into the secrets of the book of Revelation by brute brain-power, but is the submission of all that I am to the revealed will of God. If our attitude to God is right we may use all our ransomed powers for his glory; in fact we must. Using our 'understanding' may be the way that God will redirect our steps. As the car bumper sticker has it; "if you haven't changed your mind recently, how do you know you still have one?"

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