Loving God with all our Mind

Mark and Matthew agree that we can, and should, love the Lord our God with all our mind (cf Mark 12.30 and Matthew 22.37), but I wonder how many of us fail to register that or settle for the easier (because apparently more demonstrable) loving God with all our heart, adding ‘with all our soul’ or ‘all our strength’ by way of affirmation. In the West, the heart has become the pre-eminent symbol of love and devotion but its popularisation has also led to, not a cheapening exactly, but certainly a lightness in use that can be disconcerting. We ‘like’ a tweet and a little heart appears alongside; we love, love, love chocolate when all we really mean is that it is a favourite treat; and then we have no words or symbols left when we want to express something deeper, more demanding. We have wasted our efforts on what a friend once called amour confiture — syrupy sentimentality.

That is not to deny the reality of anyone’s professions of love and devotion to God. But do we give sufficient thought to what it means to love God with all our mind? At the end of the day, I examine my conscience by thinking where my desire has been: what have I wanted, what have I dismissed as unimportant, what have I said or thought that shows where my desire has truly been. My words often trip me up, but when I think of the never-ending bilge that passes through my mind, not necessarily sinful thoughts but a near-constant inner monologue about everything under the sun, I realise how hard it is to ‘take every thought captive’ for Christ (cf II Corinthians 10.5). The old monks regarded control of thoughts an essential monastic discipline, but even after a lifetime in the monastery, I know I am as far from it as ever. I pray that I may learn some day, and perhaps you do, too, because I believe it has an important role in loving God with our whole mind — not just part of it, nor even the major part, but all of it.

To love with our mind means more than intellectual appreciation of what is good or the restraint of negative impulses in some sort of approximation of ancient virtue, while to love with all our mind takes us into the realm of transformation by grace. It means, surely, allowing the light of the Holy Spirit to illumine what is dark in us (or for us) and responding to God’s love without hesitation or reservation. There is no room for ‘I’ll love God if he answers my prayers as I want him to’ or ‘I’ll be like St Augustine and start my conversion tomorrow’ (!) There isn’t even any possibility of holding back ‘I’ll forgive everyone except X.’ The fundamental problem of loving God with all our mind is that we have to love as God loves with his mind — completely, mercifully, charitably. Far from being restrictive, doing so is both liberating and creative.

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5 thoughts on “Loving God with all our Mind”

  1. It would be wonderful to “take every thought captive for Christ” but how do we do it? By 8 AM I am already immersed in unimportant trivial thoughts and unbridled curiosities about the state of the world or the condition of my wardrobe! I so often wonder if I lived in a monastery I’d be more inclined to focus only on God . That is no doubt an excuse for my own lack of discipline for it is in God “we live, and move, and have our being “ wherever we are found!

  2. I visited Worcester Cathedral yesterday – there was an art installation my sister wanted to see. As we were wandering around though, we went into the crypt, and I was struck by a line or two on an information board there, that mentioned that crypts were clearly important to medieval cathedral builders, but were on of the most difficult parts to construct. It mentioned that it was thought they had significance in Easter worship, representing going into the tomb.

    This, and the fact were were wandering through chapel after chapel, made my mental bilge run along to thinking about the lengths clergy go to create special moments in church that interrupt that flow and bring us closer to God, and how the different spaces we use can assist or take away from that. I didn’t reach any conclusions – thoughts wandered off elsewhere – probably to lunch!! :O

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