Jesus replied: ” Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind; This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself”.
As Christians, we understand that we are to love God with all of our heart and soul. We have been taught this since our youth. Additionally, it is very natural for us to love Him in such a way more than we love others. Our neighbors, in fact, often make this easy for us to do. Why is it then, that we often times elevate the virtue of loving others higher than the act of loving God with all of our mind? When was the last time you heard a sermon on loving God with your mind? What does it look like to love God with our mind?
It was once the case that the intellectuals in society were to be found in the church. The local preacher was considered to be the authority on all things spiritual and intellectual. The Puritans were known for their intellectual vigor. They understood what it meant to love the Lord with all of their mind. Contrast that with the preachers of our own era who seldom appeal to the intellect in their preaching of the Word. Instead, sermons are laced with emotional appeals. The focus of the modern sermon is that God is a solution for a felt need, that is, a need that one feels in their life. The focus has shifted from learning of the glorious mysteries of God, to a group therapy session. Please don’t misunderstand me, I believe that God can and does offer a solution to the worries of life. However, this message is inadequate. It does not train us to love God with our mind. In fact, it teaches us that our own troubles (and therefore, loving others who experience similar troubles) are of higher importance than loving God with our minds.
The problem with such an approach to preaching is that it makes it far too easy for a person to reject the gospel. Rather than presenting the gospel as an intellectual decision, it is presented as a solution for a felt need. Far too often we do not recognize our need, much less feel it. Rejection of a felt need then becomes a rejection of the gospel, because the gospel has been equated to a solution for a felt need. If however, the gospel is presented as an intellectual appeal, we are at once confronted with truth and forced to reconcile our lives with truth. The decision then becomes one of rejecting a truth claim. It can not be dismissed as readily as an appeal to a felt need, because truth transcends our personal experience. Once presented as an appeal to truth, an honest person will have to investigate the truth claim and determine whether sufficient evidence exists to support it. This process of investigating the truth claims of Christianity is the beginning of loving God with our minds; a virtue which Christ elevated higher than the love of our neighbors. With all the attention that loving our neighbors receives in the modern sermon (and rightfully so) we should at least pause and consider the higher virtue of loving God with our mind.
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