This blog grows out of my conviction that every aspect of our lives is sacred and is to be nurtured and celebrated as a good gift of God. Most of the posts will be the sorts of things you would expect from a historian and worldview teacher, but some are likely to be a bit surprising. Since God created all things good, including all aspects of human life, everything is interesting and important from the perspective of a biblical worldview. Everything under the Sun and under Heaven is thus fair game here. I hope you find it interesting and enjoyable.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength

Continuing our discussion of God’s priorities, we see that proper love comes from the inside out, heart to soul to mind to strength (physical actions). To understand this, it will be helpful to define the terms Jesus uses:

  • Our strength refers to our physical body.
  • Our mind is our thought life and our ability to reason and think.
  • Our soul is our settled convictions, core values, conscience, memory, and will, which together comprise the essence of who we are. The Greek word is psyche, the root word for psychology, and is often translated as an individual’s “life” (e.g. Mark 8:35). As C. S. Lewis put it, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” To be more precise, we are embodied souls.
  • The heart is the even deeper levels of our being, the innermost core of who we are that is generally invisible to us. Scripture tells us that only God knows our heart, which means we don't even know it completely.
We live from the inside out: our hearts move our souls, which then choose what we think about and what we do.

This raises a problem, however: I don’t have direct control over my heart. I (that is, my soul) can control my body and mind, but I can’t will my heart to change because the heart is a deeper part of me than my will.

So how do I move my heart to love God completely?

We may live from the inside out, but we grow primarily from the outside in. In other words, what we choose to do and to think about consistently will mold our souls, which then shapes our hearts. If we are going to change and grow, we need to develop new patterns of action and thought, because this will change our internal lives.

I would take this further to argue that since God expects our best, it is important for us to work to grow ourselves on all levels, heart, soul, mind, and strength. Growing in love for God will inevitably put us on a journey of personal growth as well.

In practical terms, the same applies to loving our neighbors: we need to grow ourselves so that we have more to give to them. For example, the best thing we can do for the poor is not to be one of them ourselves. As John Wesley said, we should make as much as we can, save as much as we can, and give as much as we can. Growing ourselves enhances our ability to help others.

So how do we grow ourselves in such a way that we can love God completely, love ourselves correctly, and love our neighbor compassionately? This is the subject of the next post.