But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes.
-1 Corinthians 8:1b-3
"You know what thinking is? Thinking is just a fancy word for changing your mind."
"I will not change my mind."
"Then you will die stupid."
-One of my favorite lines from Doctor Who (I have several hundred others as well).
Multiple times throughout his teachings in the gospels, Jesus asked his disciples, "what do you think?". He wanted to invite them to thoughtfully considering what they were hearing. He wasn't particularly asking for their opinion as much as asking them to sit with why a story made them uncomfortable or elated.
Jesus was teaching them to always keep the door open to a new understanding of God and others. This was certainly so that they could understand God's heart. But it was also so that they would learn the value of humility. This has become a real problem in much of the American church.
Over the decades I've heard a lot of messaging about how important it is for Christians to have "strong convictions." I certainly have strong convictions about a number of things regarding my faith and life. But is it possible that this emphasis on holding and defending our convictions can actually make us rigid and unteachable? As if the more confident we are in our knowledge, the less able we are to learn?
As a church, we lean deeply into discipleship. Discipleship means, at its simplest core, apprenticeship. A disciple is someone who is constantly learning from Jesus in new ways. If we can't think in new ways and consider new things, we have a discipleship problem.
Thinking well takes work. Many of us believe that we're thinking when we hear new ideas or stories that challenge how we see reality. But much of that time, rather than actually thinking critically, what we're doing is figuring out the most effective way to reject other ideas, and defend our own. Inside our heads, we subconsciously argue, dismiss, rationalize, or judge. But thinking well somehow gets lost.
What if, instead of linking thinking to winning arguments or defending our correctness, it was linked closely with the concept of love?
Paul warned the Corinthians that if they thought they got it all figured out, they almost certainly had huge blind spots in their lives. The same is true of us. But if our goal is to learn how to love God (and others, as an extension) really well... then that's what is significant in God's eyes. LOVE > KNOWLEDGE. Why? Because our knowledge is always limited, but love will always lead us toward God.
The Christ followers in my life with the greatest wisdom, maturity, and spiritual depth share several things in common. They hold their faith with great humility. They are always open to learning new things and calling their assumptions into question. And they are not afraid of changing their minds as they keep their eyes on Jesus.
When we first love God and approach knowledge through that lens, we will learn to reject those tendencies to argue, dismiss, rationalize, or judge.
Instead, we will:
Wonder what we might be missing.
Evaluate our own resistance.
Ask what God's love and care would look like.
When love leads us, we long to understand. We long to be changed. We long to learn from another's experience.
Personally, my mind has continued to grow and change over the years as I've tried to allow love to become more significant than my supposed knowledge.
I've learned that God is bigger than I previously allowed for. I've learned racial injustice is more widespread and horrific than my personal bias had taught me. I've learned that people who have done terrible things at the worst moment of their lives are capable of more good than I would ever have given them credit for. I've learned that God's faithfulness is not dependent on me figuring out every mysterious detail in the Bible.
When love and humility lead us toward Jesus, Jesus teaches us new things about his kingdom. But even that new knowledge won't ever be the most important part of our formation. The heart that is formed in us during the process will be. We will not have all the answers, and we don't need to. But Jesus is faithful to help us learn the way of love as we seek to be open to all that is real and true, even if it's difficult.
What is Jesus asking you to really think about this week?
Jesus, your presence is a safe place to be. Therefore, let me be unafraid to listen, learn, and think in new compassionate ways today.