Presence of Mind
When asked to name the greatest of the divine commandments, Messiah replied by quoting from the Jewish confession of faith: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6.5). We are told not merely to love God but how to do so. Those first two qualifiers, heart and soul, are translated in a straightforward way from the Hebrew of the Old Testament into the Greek of the New. But interestingly, that last word is treated differently.
That last word Moses used is an adverb which could be used to describe force or might; its real meaning, however, is ‘greatness,’ ‘abundance,’ ‘exceeding’ (or, as Strong’s Concordance puts it, ‘muchness’). Evidently when the disciples of Messiah heard him cite this passage, they understood his use of the word to mean not only strength but intellect. The mind.
Perhaps this is behind the Apostle Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 14:15 “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.” Loving God is not simply an emotional experience, wonderful as that may be. It is not simply obedience to his directives, although that is certainly vital. Loving God happens when we meditate on Scripture, when we view our lives and the world’s situation from the heavenly perspective, when we are (in the imagery of Ephesians 5.26) washed with the water of the Word.
And if we fail to do so? Listen to this quote from Dr. Steve B. Cowan, associate professor of philosophy at Louisiana College:
I believe that the greatest threat to Christianity is the anti-intellectualism that permeates the church. For about a century now, Christians have largely retreated from the intellectual arena and entrenched themselves in a version of Christianity that emphasizes feelings, experience, and pragmatism, and have ignored the life of the mind. We have adopted a view of faith that sees it as opposed to reason. The result has been the marginalization of the church from the larger culture and our inability to be salt and light, and the increasing secularization of our society.
If we are deliberately not cultivating our God-given intellect, we are failing to fully follow Christ – and that hurts not only us as individuals, but the entire society in which we live.