Faith

Head, heart and hands: How can I love God and my neighbour if I don’t know His Word?

by Gabriel Ong // April 1, 2020, 12:18 am

Every christian a theologian

I carved out some time to focus on learning last year.

I’ve had the privilege to attend two classes each week, one on preaching and the other on hermeneutics (interpreting the Bible). One was compulsory, while I was invited to the other.

These classes are probably not what I would have taken the initiative to go for. But in the midst of a busy period and struggling to keep up with the workload at times, I’ve come out of these classes with more than just few tasty nuggets of wisdom.

I realised a number of truths that must surely apply to every Christian.

“I’M NO THEOLOGIAN”

A common refrain about going for courses like these or even Bible school is that it’s not for everyone, or it’s too advanced.

Sure, the Bible never commands us to learn Hebrew or Greek so that we can parse ancient sentences. Neither does it tell us to become the next Ravi Zacharias or John Piper.

Why Bible school is not just for the “up-there Christian”

But what is explicit in it is God’s commandment for us to love Him (Matthew 22:37). And part of loving Him means loving the Word because that is the primary medium through which God communicates with us today (2 Timothy 3:16).

Theology, put simply, is the revelation of God to man. In that light, we are all theologians if we study the Living Word (Hebrews 4:12).

There’s so much at stake.

For instance, you may know folks before who think the New Testament (NT) is more than enough and somehow magically nullifies all of the Old Testament (OT). But if we don’t appreciate the OT and give it the respect it’s due, how can we ever understand how Jesus Christ fulfilled promises in the NT? 

Why should I bother reading the Old Testament?

When it comes to the Bible, I think there’s a danger in thinking that what we have right now is enough. In my own life, that mindset either boils down to spiritual pride, complacency or laziness.

Knowing that and knowing myself, I choose the upward grind of loving God with all my mind.

HEAD, HEART, HANDS… ALL IN

But it’s not all about amassing head knowledge, is it?

Certainly not! I believe that the right picture of a learning Christian looks something like this: head sanctified, heart stirred, hands serving.

Whatever we learn must result in application. It boils down to our response. It’s all about life change and transformation.

Knowledge that is precious awakens the mind, stirs the heart and moves us to act for the glory of God.

I’ll share an example: I really appreciated one of my teachers for helping me to differentiate among dogma, doctrine and preferences. 

Dogma are things that, if we disagree over, we really can’t hold hands. This is primary stuff, like whether or not the Holy Trinity exists.

Doctrine are things like views on spiritual gifts or how the end-times will play out – this one can disagree, but don’t fight.

Preferences are like whether we should sing hymns or modern worship music – lagi don’t fight.

Old man listens to Hillsong Y&F’s “Best Friends” and finally gets it

When I heard this, I was blown away.

Suddenly a lot of the unrighteous anger that I had over my friends leaving church melted into sadness. Why are all of us fighting bitterly over doctrine? And why are we fighting over preferences? These all aren’t primary.

I’m seeing that knowledge that is precious awakens the mind, stirs the heart and moves us to act for the glory of God. It is peaceable wisdom.

In my case it’s probably just going to look like releasing anger and sadness… and just loving my friends.

“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'” (Matthew 22:37)

Ultimately, we serve a God who chose to reveal Himself to us through the Word.

The extent to which we will seek God in the Word will always be revealing of our spiritual hunger and the posture of our hearts.

But remember – if we don’t have intimacy with God and grow in our love for Him and those around us, then it’s still all just head knowledge. It hasn’t come down to the heart or hands.

So it’s not about being the smartest Christian in the chapel or prowling each sermon like a hermeneutical policeman. It’s about knowing God, understanding Him better, and loving and serving Him.

What we do with what God reveals to us – that’s what really counts.

THINK + TALK

  1. How much time do you spend on God’s Word in a week?
  2. What are some things that are preventing you from reading the Bible more?
  3. What are some steps you can take to know God better?
About the author

Gabriel Ong

Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.