Heart, Soul, & Mind
Guest Author: Sara Holloway I learned the words as a little girl in Sunday School, to the tune of some 50s song (that for the life of me I can’t remember the name of!!). And now I sing it to my son as a lullaby. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and love all of mankind as your would love yourself.” (Matthew 22:37) I sing the two greatest commands as if they were a children’s silly song. But I remember them, and I have had those words hidden in my heart for the last 30 years.
Recently, I saw the application of these in practice. Or rather, became acutely aware of the lack of them. I think I’ve been noticing it in Bible study for a while but finally put it all together. The command is to love the Lord. How? With all one’s heart and soul and mind. Sounds easy enough, right? Right.
Until you really break it down. Have you ever been sitting in a class and everyone gets in a deep, heated theological, intellectual discussion about some really legalistic issue and you think, “everyone is missing the point.” Do you ever listen to a sermon and get no feeling or emotion behind the scriptures, laid out like cold, hard facts in a court trial? Or conversely, take in a truly heart felt worship experience and inspiring, emotional sermon but in retrospect everything was just kind of loosely based on scriptures? Or shy away from the mention of the Holy Spirit at the risk of being labeled Pentecostal or Charismatic?
Heart. Soul. Mind. The scriptures tell us God intended these three areas to work in concert together. The word AND becomes really important there. You can’t just love God by knowing a lot about him, or feeling your way there, or relying solely on the Spirit. We have to marry the three.
This one is easy: any emotion you feel towards God, towards another person, towards a situation. And as women, we can totally let them get the best of us. We can be in danger of letting our emotions guide us completely and not rely on the Word of God. There is a lot (a whole lot, I believe) to be said about a woman’s intuition, but there are times when we have to take a step back and ask God to make us neutral and be objective. Men, generally speaking, seem to have the opposite problem, easily ignoring their feelings (or ours) and seeing everything as 100% black and white. Good, but at the same time, isn’t it necessary to open one’s heart in order to have a relationship with God, to not harden it to what He has to reveal to us? Neither situation strikes a good balance. Sadly, I have also witnessed this in church work. Some preachers and congregations seem to make it the focus to make everyone feel good, to not preach the truth in love for fear of hurting someone’s feelings, glossing over or omitting scriptures that might make someone feel uncomfortable, using an emotional situation to pull at the heartstrings or sway someone into a decision (mass church camp baptisms, anyone?). Yes, God is love. But at the same time he is a just God who set in place laws and rules, not to keep us from having fun or living our lives, but to keep up from hurt and pain, because he loves us. It comes full circle.
[Okay, sorry, I’m going out of order because I want to tie it all up in a nice little package and it all comes together nicer if you talk about heart and mind first]
The church of Christ is really good at this one. Almost too good. We are known for knowing the scriptures backwards and forwards, for studying, cross-referencing, Bible bowl, Bible challenge. Coming from a Baptist background, I remember being so intimidated when my new found church friends could spout off some obscure scripture from Habakkuk, and I couldn’t remember where that book was in the Old Testament, let alone classify it and tell you what was going on in the history of the Israelites at that time. Please don’t get me wrong, Bible knowledge is uber-important. But being legalistic about them, for just seeing them as fact is where we can get into trouble. Atheists (and Satan for that matter) know what the Bible says. To draw application from them, to allow God to speak to us through scripture, to learn life lessons from them (not just about them), that is the challenge, that is where using the mind and thinking for oneself (with the help of the Holy Spirit) become critical for loving our Almighty God. Check out the Bereans in Acts 17:11-12. The searched the scriptures daily, it says, but even more than that, they received and believed.
Ready for this? I broke out the Greek lexicon, because I had a thought and wanted to make sure I wasn’t way off base. The Greek word used here for soul is psyche, defined as “the breath of life”. This is very similar to the definition given for the Greek work pneuma or Spirit, as in, the Holy Spirit. Ooohh. Read 1st Corinthians 2:12. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” The only reason we, as Christians, can fully know and love God is because we have the Holy Spirit within our own soul. The Holy Spirit, that helped write the very Scriptures, is inside each Christian helping them discern the mysteries of the Bible. The reason we can understand scripture and see how God is working all things together for our good is because he is living and working in our hearts. This makes recognizing the power of the Spirit an absolutely essential element in our walk with God. Again, sometimes it can be taboo to speak of the Holy Spirit working in our lives, but I think we need to know and to be able recognize when it is working.
Let’s put it all together. Have you ever been in a really emotional situation, and suddenly the exact right scripture to bring you peace or calm fears or even to celebrate a victory pops in your head? John 14:26 says that “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. See? Previous study helped you learn it, the Holy Spirit helped you remember it, and emotions helped you truly experience it. Or those times you are completely lost in a passage of Scripture, having a hard time comprehending the words on the page, and an event, conversation or prayer that opens your heart to allow the Holy Spirit to lead you brings clarity? Or maybe you felt the tug of the Holy Spirit guiding you to a particular verse that you were later able to use to ease the pain of a loved one?
The three, heart, soul, and mind, must work in concert to truly allow us to experience God as He was meant to live in our lives. They have to live in a sort of checks and balances system so that one never overpowers the others. And I think that being acutely aware of this triad will help to unlock a deeper understanding of ourselves, of the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit as we learn how to love God more fully.
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