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The Word on the Week

Heart v Head

Who would have thought that the reading of the Shema by a bunch of Baptists this week would have led to a discussion on the nature of love and the influences on it exercised by heart and head. The passage reads: –

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts… (Deuteronomy Chapter 6 verses 4-6).

Love is never in a vacuum – it always has an object. Here the love is to be directed to God. The collective powers of heart, soul and strength are to be engaged making this love the paramount affection in our lives. In Luke’s account of Jesus’s conversation with a lawyer the mind is added to heart, soul and strength (Chapter 10 verse 27).

This formed the basis of our discussion, loving with the heart (the seat of our emotions) and loving with the head (a cerebral approach).

The former was hard for some of us to get our head around! This, it was suggested, was because we did not make time for reflection. We needed to get down and meditate. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46 verse 10) came to mind.

For others the story of the busy Pastor who signed up for a time management course only to find that he couldn’t make it and had to send his assistant, better expressed their reality!

When someone comes to faith in Christ there is a transformation which works out in behavioural changes. St James says what we now do demonstrates our faith.

In a similar way our love for God becomes visible in the keeping of his commandments. Indeed the Shema goes on to spell it out in Deuteronomy and Jesus made it the yardstick whereby we could see the reality (or otherwise) of our professed love for God (St John Chapter 14 verse 15). In fact some would say that in introducing the 11th Commandment (St John Chapter 13 verse 34) Jesus makes our love for others the litmus test of our love for God.

Whether the inclination of our love is from the heart or the head the force of the text requires us to focus all our faculties on loving God.

At its best our love will always be a puny affair when compared with God’s love for us.

St John defines and illustrates God’s love for us in his 1st letter,
“This is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

The response of those awakened by such love must be in surrender and worship.

May we echo the words of the hymnwriter “Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to Thee.