There is a belief held by many that faith and reason are opposites that do not go together at all. According to this belief, you have to park your brain at the door if you are going to enter the realm of religious faith, and the most intellectually honest approach to life is to totally jettison all religious belief and live solely by reason. This belief is not true. Faith and reason necessarily go together and that is especially true with respect to the way that we receive and give love.
In the 11th century, Anselm of Canterbury coined the phrase “faith seeking understanding.” What he meant is that believing in God starts us off on a quest where we seek to understand more about God for the joy that comes from knowing and loving him. Understanding is very important to growing in faith. This is why God tells us in Romans 12:2,
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
Understanding helps our faith to grow, but faith is an absolute necessity to true understanding. We cannot understand what true reality is without first believing in the God who created it. As C. S. Lewis wrote in The Weight of Glory: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it, I see everything else.”
“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it, I see everything else.”C. S. Lewis
The man shows that he has understanding when he replies to Jesus, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.”
Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:32-34)
Here is a question for you to consider: Why didn’t Jesus say to the man, “You are in the Kingdom of God”? Because Jesus could see that the man, even though he had understanding, was missing the critical component of faith. You can be the most intelligent person in the world, yet without faith, you cannot see things as they really are. Or you can be a small child who has never gone to school, yet because you believe in God, you already know everything that is important to know.
Dear friends, when our mind is combined with faith in the God of love, the floodgates of heaven will open up and pour into our lives more love than we can contain. That love will naturally spill over out of our lives in the form of love for God with our entire being and love for the people around us like we love ourselves. But our faith needs to guide our understanding so that our mind can open the doors to a deeper, fuller, richer relationship with God.
One of the areas in which our faith needs to guide our mind is with regards to choosing a source to fill up our internal love bucket, that invisible storehouse of good thoughts and feelings that lies within each of us. Our mind tends to choose the things of this world for love bucket refilling because that is what makes the most sense to a natural human mind. Our emotions tend to choose the sources that we think are most likely to give us warm, fuzzy feelings, but that leaves us open to manipulation and disappointment. Our body will choose sources that we think will fill the gnawing hunger in our stomach or our soul, but those things never satisfy. We were made for a much greater kind of love than these earthly things could ever supply, a kind of love that can only come from God.
That’s why Jesus came. He is God the Son who became fully human to take our place on the cross and pay the full cost of reconciling us to God. Yes, that means that all our sins are forgiven. Yes, that means that death has been defeated for us. But it also means much, much more.
The moment that we believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, he brings to life within us a new person specially designed by God to receive and thrive on God’s love. When our faith guides our understanding to turn away from all earthly sources of love and look to God for the sustenance that our soul needs, then our entire being–heart, soul, mind and strength–is focused on God and his love. We receive from God a love which calms our anxious mind, fills our empty soul, restores our broken heart and gives peace and strength to our frail body. With all of our being aligned and focused on God, all impediments are removed and we are filled to overflowing with his love. All we want to do is love God and love our neighbor, and with our faith and mind finally on the same Spirit-guided page, we know how to do that. We don’t love in order to be loved. We love because we are loved. And the love that we are being loved with is beyond anything that we could ever ask or imagine.
I want to leave you with this challenge, tell yourself everyday, “I have all the love I need from Jesus.” Feel free to choose your own words and make it your own, but the point is to get your faith and your mind partnering together and looking to God for all the love you need.
Perhaps you are saying to yourself, “How can I truthfully say that when I don’t feel loved?” Here is the answer to that question. Love is not a feeling. Love is an action. And the greatest act of love in all of human history happened when Jesus Christ came into this world to undo the cycle of human brokenness and give you healing and restoration as a beloved, forgiven, ever-living child of God. Jesus’ love for you is true whether you feel it or not, and when you get your faith and mind focused on Jesus and receiving his love, your feelings and your body will eventually follow.
We know that to be true because God has given us the Holy Spirit. As we read in Romans 5:5, And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (Romans 5:5).