15th century monastic, Thomas A Kempis, writes in his masterpiece The Imitation of Christ, “Indeed it is not learning that makes a person holy and just, but a virtuous life that makes one pleasing to God. I would rather feel contrition than to know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and then live without the grace and love of God? Vanities of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone.”
We are linear thinkers. A+B=C. We like reason. We like logic. Much of New Testament theology develops out of a hermeneutic, an interpretation, derived from reason. But the goal of Scripture is not mere knowledge or reason, rather, the goal is assimilation.
Jesus asks, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:25). Derived out of the call to take up our cross and follow Him, the Messiah asks, “What good is anything that we can possibly gain if in the process we lose our very selves? What good is anything we could accomplish, if we fail as disciples?
We are called to have a high view of God and His Word and a humble view of ourselves. However, if our understanding remains intellectual exercise and mental ascent (that which is cognitive), rather than that which is relational and covenantal, we’ve missed the calling of Jesus.
Too often we approach the Kingdom like a math equation. Like a test we’re trying to get an A on (or at least a passing grade), rather than the only way of life that is truly worth living.
Somehow I’m afraid we’re tempted to believe that “right thinking” equals “right relationship.” That somehow if my theology is “right” (as if any of us have the market cornered on God or have mastery of His Word) my relationship with Him is as it should be.
In 1 Corinthians 13 the Apostle Paul gives us such insight when sharing, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (vv11-12). Paul, in one sense, compels us to recognize that we are nearsighted this side of eternity. However he sternly refuses to allow us to shy away from the call to conviction the Gospel demands. Both are crucial.
Reflecting, imitating Christ, is our call.
What good is knowing about Jesus, but never knowing Jesus? What good is knowing all about His love and grace, but never truly experiencing them? What good is having an understanding of the Kingdom, but never fully living within it?
Glory to God!