A short meditation first published in the Society of Christian Scholars Addenda Volume 2.6 (June 2019)–whose readership is Christian professors worldwide.
In Mark 12:28-34 an educated man—a professor of the law—tests Jesus in a legal matter: What’s the most important commandment? Jesus says there is one command with two parts: the one command is love. Love is the engine that runs the universe, fueled at its centre by the mutual embrace of three persons within one Trinitarian deity. The chief end of humanity is to enter into that circle of love, and it is directed on two planes: love for God and love for your neighbour as close as your love for yourself.
Significantly, however, Jesus alters the Deuteronomic text (6:4), which called for loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength. To that combination, Jesus adds loving God with all your mind. This would be a bold move in the ancient world.
Addenda is a publication of http://www.societyofchristianscholars.org
A Jewish law professor would have known this passage well, and pious Jews would have recited it twice a day. The change Jesus makes, suggested theologian Neal Plantinga, would most certainly be noticed–it is like changing the familiar bedtime prayer to say: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my brain to keep.” People would certainly have raised their eyebrows in surprise.
Why the change? Jesus is insisting on a complete all-of-life passion for God and his kingdom, which is the original intent of the text. He’s being asked a key question by a smart man, so he intentionally includes the mind in the call to surrender one’s life to God. Surely a professor would relate to mention of the mind, even if its mixed with the more heart-felt call to love. There are no loopholes around the pervasiveness of the love command–love as desire bent on self-giving must enlist the allegiance of the mind along with every other facet of one’s being.
I once asked a Christian economics student what a kingdom-of-God perspective would imply regarding risk and fair wages, and he replied with the phrase, “Hey, I don’t make the rules, I just follow them.” This student assumed that the Christian mind relates to prayer, worship, and churches, but for the rest of life—economics, politics, and so on—he could just follow the dominant culture of the day.
We often do the same–in terms of our consumption habits, electronic media use, and other cultural norms. We are creatures of context, and living in the Spirit of the love of God means approaching every aspect of our life with a fresh appraisal of its value and direction.
We must continually pray that we may not compartmentalize any arena of our life away from our love for God and his creatures. There is not one sentence of any university curriculum, no theory or method, and no discipline or profession to which the call to love God with all our mind does not apply. We cannot love God with all our soul and live with a secular mind. This love, especially seen in the light of the “wondrous cross,” demands our soul, our life, our all. Our calling is as comprehensive and overwhelming as the gospel itself–which extends not only to all our life, but to all creation.