Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2 Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; 3 but anyone who loves God is known by him.
-Paul, 1 Corinthians 8:1b-3
Many of us remember the iconic moment in the movie The Matrix, when Neo comes to grip with the reality of living in a world that was only an illusion. He meets a monk-child who had special abilities and had learned to understand the system they were living in. The child holds a spoon in his hand, and it melts and bends as he gazes at it. He explains to Neo that there is no spoon, there is only the mind. This scene helps to catapult Neo into a world of discovering this secret knowledge. He had been living in a virtual reality,and nothing around him was real. The only thing that counted for anything was this special knowledge- the knowledge of the mind.
There were a bunch of Christians in Corinth that had a similar mindset. Since having the right knowledge was all that mattered- their actions (toward themselves and others) were secondary. Faith was all about what they knew.
It is to this reality that Paul speaks his words of 1 Corinthians 8. He issues a clear challenge:
Having all the right knowledge, if you’re not careful, simply creates know-it-alls that look nothing like Jesus. But love- that’s the real secret sauce. The one who loves with the love of God because they have encountered God— they’re the ones God recognizes. Lots of knowledge makes you feel important. Love makes others feel important.
When knowledge becomes the highest value, two things can happen.
1) We become arrogant.
2) We lose our focus on simply following Jesus in the physical areas of everyday life.
In a world where the quest for knowledge knows no end, and in a culture that thrives on being able to win arguments, it is no surprise that theological beliefs (or knowledge) tend to be the most significant source of division for Christians. While belief is important, the witness of Jesus is that expressed love and unity are really the ultimate goal of the Church. There is need for agreement on certain issues, but the higher value that covers them is that our practices might ultimately show God’s love to the world. Love > Knowledge.
If our faith is truly founded on Jesus, disagreements of interpretation will be far less important than our ability to love one another as God's Church. Is it ok to disagree? Absolutely. In fact, maybe you need to make friends with some people you disagree with. But let us never for a second begin to think that knowing all the correct beliefs about God is the same as knowing God. Today, lean into the humility that comes from knowing that you are loved by Jesus, and so is that person that has a different interpretation than you.
So yes, friends, there is indeed a spoon. Today might be a good day to analyze it a bit less, and use it to feed someone instead.
Jesus, may my faith in you be founded on simple love.