WHEN STUDYING THE BIBLE, DON’T FOLLOW YOUR HEART by Jen Wilkin for Core Christianity
Love God with Heart and Mind
The heart, as it is spoken of in Scripture, is the seat of the will and emotions. It is our “feeler” and our “decision-maker.” Letting my heart guide my study meant that I looked for the Bible to make me feel a certain way when I read it. I wanted it to give me peace, comfort, or hope. I wanted it to make me feel closer to God. I wanted it to give me assurance about tough choices. Because I wanted the Bible to engage my emotions, I spent little time in books like Leviticus or Numbers and much time in books like the Psalms and the Gospels.
The Bible commands us to love God with all of our hearts (Mark 12:30). When we say that we love God with all of our hearts, we mean that we love him completely with our emotions and with our wills. Attaching our emotions to our faith comes fairly naturally for women—generally speaking, we know how to be emotive without much guidance. If we think of the heart as the seat of our emotions and our will, it makes sense that we so often approach God’s Word asking, “Who am I?” and “What should I do?” Those two questions uniquely address the heart. And we speak often in the church about how Christianity is a religion of the heart—of how Christ comes into our hearts, of how we need heart-change. It is right to speak of Christianity in this way, but not exclusively in this way.
Interestingly, the same verse that commands us to love God with all of our hearts also commands us to love him with all of our minds. Our minds are the seat of our intellects. Attaching our intellect to our faith does not come naturally to most of us. We live in a time when faith and reason are spoken of as polar opposites. At times, the church has even embraced this kind of language. For some of us, the strength of our faith is gauged by how close we feel to God at any given moment—by how a sermon made us feel, by how a worship chorus made us feel, by how our quiet time made us feel. Hidden in this thinking is an honest desire to share a deep relationship with a personal God, but sustaining our emotions can be exhausting and defeating. Changing circumstances can topple our emotional stability in an instant. Our “walk with the Lord” can feel more like a roller-coaster ride of peaks and valleys than a straight path in which valleys and mountains have been made level.