Foursquare

  And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favour. (Luke 2:52)
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’ (Luke 10:25-28).

I’m sure the lawyer in this passage never did a Myers Briggs test. How would his personality type have come out? Introvert or extravert? Certainly extravert enough to brave the crowds around Jesus. Sensing or intuitive? Perhaps far enough along the sensing spectrum to want a ‘right answer’. Definitely a thinker rather than a feeler. And, given that he was a lawyer, probably more judging than perceiving. Let’s call him an ESTJ. Of course the only thing we can say for sure that he shared with Myers and Briggs was a tendency to see things in four parameters. Or was that Luke? Luke was certainly fond of pairs: every time he quotes a parable or story in which a man is the lead character, he pairs it with one in which a woman is the lead character – check it out.

Did you notice that Luke, or the lawyer, has actually misquoted, or added to, Deuteronomy 6.5? For in the original verse from Deuteronomy, only heart, soul and might are mentioned. Interesting, isn’t it, that it is a lawyer who adds the missing ‘mind’? He also merges it with the Levitical command to love one’s neighbour, which suggests that he was, not exactly a human rights lawyer (that would be an anachronism) but one who recognizes that the law is designed for human flourishing. Perhaps these two verses were commonly linked at the time; I’m not enough of a biblical/historical scholar to know.

But what interests me is that fourfold linkage of heart, soul, strength and mind. It took me years to notice how it links up with Luke’s description of Jesus’ ‘hidden years’, where he is shown as growing intellectually (wisdom), physically (years, sometimes rendered as ‘stature’), spiritually (divine favour) and emotionally/socially (human favour). This portrait corresponds perfectly to the lawyer’s quartet, as he calls us to to love God with our emotions, our spirituality, our physicality and our intellect.

In some branches of twentieth century evangelicalism, especially the non- or pre-charismatic, loving God with the mind has been prioritized over the other aspects of our humanity. And this was for good reasons: leaders such as the great John Stott wanted to give their faith an intellectual content that could stand up beside the best of secular philosopy and science. However this could at times go with a distrust of emotions and the physical, which on a popular level was expressed as ‘faith not feelings’. This dictum was right in urging us not to let our faith fluctuate with our moods. But it also did a lot of harm to those of us who leant more heavily to the Feelings side of the Myers Briggs third parameter – especially women, who could be excluded from leadership, and indeed from being listened too, because we were seen as more (read ‘too’) emotional.

I am no advocate of the late unlamented Toronto Blessing; but when Stott questioned it with the words ‘I would not want to lose control of my mind’, I did wonder how he managed to go to sleep every night! The mind is only one of the four dimensions in which we are to love God, and when it dominates, we may develop a very limited or distorted image of God.

What would it mean to love God with our emotions? With our physicality? Eric Liddell never said, and would probably never have said, that famous sentence from Chariots of Fire, but when he says it in the film, the scriptwriter is identifying something important. I suspect if we are unable to love God with our feelings and our body, we will have little understanding of what it means to love God with our soul/spirit. Because the image of God in us consists of more than our rationality. It resides in our ability to relate, to communicate, to love, to ‘enjoy the world aright’, as the C17th poet Thomas Traherne says in his wonderful Centuries of Meditation. Do this, and you will live.

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About veronicazundel

I'm a professional writer and amateur mother, and belong to the only (so far) non-conservative, English-speaking, Mennonite church in the UK. I live in north London with my husband, adult son and a fat fluffy cat. I eat Marmite on matzo crackers every morning.
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One Response to Foursquare

  1. lindamarielofton says:

    I wish I could attend a Bible study with you, dear friend! (Or just live close enough to visit in person now and then…) Thanks for sharing this!

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