the mind and heart of God
I have been thinking recently about the way we relate to God. So often, we satisfy ourselves to know (or think we know) the mind of God without really concerning ourselves with the heart of God. This is how, for the most part, Christian education takes place in the West.
Men and women, passionate to be closer to God and guide others on that same journey, enroll in Christian education at seminaries and Bible colleges. Or, they begin to read books that will deepen their understanding of the Christian faith. But, where this often takes them is different from what they had expected.
So much of Christian teaching is about avoiding heresy. It is about not believing what heretics believe. We believe that, if we can understand how not to be Gnostics or Judaizers we will understand Christianity. So, we read about famous heretics past and the orthodox Christians who fought battles of the wits against them.
We place an immense value on understanding the mind of God, on thinking the right things about God. In part, this is because of our heritage. How the early Protestant universities were structured and run has a lot to do with how we understand our faith. Our churches are more like university lecture halls than banquet rooms. They are about comprehension rather than communion. Perhaps this is because we place so much emphasis on becoming saved by thinking the right things about God. Salvation, as we often present it, is about believing the right things about God in Christ. Our focus is on this inward mental assent we make toward God.
There are many problems with this. Yet, rather than recognizing the insanity of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, we try all the harder to get people to understand the mind of God. And in this, we forget what would truly bring us closer to God –
understanding sharing his heart.
Don’t get me wrong. It is important to understand God. And the pendulum can certainly swing the other way, with people solely concerned with the rule of love. But, by and large, that is not the problem with the church in the West. The disconnect pastors and teachers have in the West is with the heart of God.
Our theology is about avoiding heresy. It is negatively framed. It is about what we can not or ought not think. We spread this negative theology with zeal, questioning our fellow Christian’s beliefs. We question the pastors we hear and the books we read. I am as guilty as any in this regard. I could hear a moving sermon with 50 good points about the gospel, and I would focus on the 1 sentence I found doctrinally questionable.
It is easy to live a life thinking the right things about Christ. Well, it is easy compared to actually living out of the heart of God in our family and community. Responding to the heart of God requires us to actually be formed in God.
I spoke recently with a man who has been blessed with a wonderful mind, and has sought to teach people about God his entire life as a pastor. But, when he began to speak about the HIV/AIDS ministry he had been involved with for decades, he broke down. What he has done to teach others about God has had an impact. But, where he has served with the heart of God is his true legacy.
The New Testament writers cared a bit about heretics, and a lot about the poor and marginalized. We care a lot about heretics, and just a little about the poor. We should not satisfy ourselves to know how not to think about God. Instead, we ought to push forward to know both the mind and the heart of God. It will never be sufficient to catalog what love means in principle, without it permeating our practice.
Has the “brand” and method of Christianity you’ve lived with formed you toward the heart of Christ? Have the poor been feed and the widows comforted? Or, is it more about thinking the right things and teaching others to do the same? What do you want your legacy to be? Maybe it is time for a change of heart. If you want people to listen to your thoughts on God, it is the heart of God shining through your life that will lead them to listen.