The Distance Between Head & Heart
One of my many regrets in life is that I never learned how to play the guitar.
For someone who loves and appreciates music as much as I do, it seems a shame.
My wife bought me a rather expensive acoustic/electric guitar one year for my birthday, which included a book of chords. A friend of mine offered to help me learn how to play. Some other folks offered to get me lessons. In the end, I became too busy, too preoccupied with life and ministry to even think about learning guitar.
Finally, I donated the guitar to a silent auction for a fund raiser that was held at our church. Someone bought it for a couple hundred bucks. I have not thought about my old guitar in years until this very moment.
It's not that I didn't have the desire to learn how to play, I just didn't want to make the commitment of time, energy and what-have-you. So now I regret it, but still not enough to make it happen, which is understandable now when you consider the schedule and pace that I am forced to keep.
There's also something else that I've had to come to grips with regarding the whole guitar deal: playing the Guitar Hero video game on X-Box doesn't count as the fulfillment of a dream, or the cancellation of a regret. As fun as it is to play Guitar Hero, it still doesn't make me a guitar player.
I might love the sound of guitars. I might know a lot about guitars and famous guitar players. I might even be extraordinarily knowledgeable about all different kinds of music that contain parts for guitars in them. I might even be a world class Guitar Hero warrior.
None of that makes me a guitar player.
There's a difference between knowing about something and actually knowing it.
Lately, I've been spending a lot of time studying a letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to a group of early Christians from the city of Ephesus. There is this one part of the letter where Paul essentially tells them, "You have been chosen by God for this unbelievable life, but you need to stop thinking so much!!!" I really paraphrased that last bit.
Paul tells the Ephesian Christians that he prays that they will receive two things: Sophia (which is a Greek word meaning "deep knowledge") and Gnosis ( a Greek word that means "revelation"). Paul desires that these early Believers obtain something other than "head knowledge" about God. In other words, Paul wants them to understand that there is a difference between knowing something about God and actually knowing God.
There have been more than a few overdone praise and worships songs that seem to always find themselves as part of the set list in "contemporary" worship services all over America. But the one that seems to stick in my head like a holy ear worm is "Open the Eyes of My Heart." Interestingly, when Paul uses this phrase in Ephesians chapter 1, it is the only time that it's used exactly thus in the entire Bible. But this is Paul's wish for the early Christians at Ephesus. That they combine their head knowledge with their heart knowledge, that they move from knowing about God to actually knowing God intimately.
Then Paul busts out on the "power," "dominion," "titles" and "rule" of this world that Jesus has been exalted high above---and because the Ephesians are "in Christ" the presumption is that they have been (and us, too) exalted along with him.
Ephesus was one of the five most important cities in the Roman Empire during the 1st Century. It was also the home of the great temple of Artemis, the goddess of fertility. In a culture that believed Fate controlled everything and the only way to understand Fate was by reading the stars, worshipping Artemis was a welcome relief. It was believed that Artemis had dominion over Fate, and essentially controlled the Zodiac. In fact, the huge statue of her in her temple (which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world) had a necklace of the Zodiac around its neck. Artemis supposedly had a covenant realtionship with Ephesus, and her temple was widely visited by pilgrims from all over the world. Many of them came because the temple priestesses were also prostitutes and they were renowned for their prowess and were often expensive. The temple of Artemis was so wealthy that it served as the chief financial institution in the area at the time of Paul.
Paul tells the Ephesians that they no longer need worry about Fate, or the whim of false goddesses, or any of the fears, anxieties and uncertainty of the day because they have been made new in Jesus and are basically above all of that--ready to leave it all behind.
I think that when our head knowledge becomes heart knowledge we begin to see things as they really are--not as our culture as interpreted them. We begin to realize that we are no longer slaves to the way we have always lived. We can be free from the slavery of worry, free from fear, from greed, materialism, hate, anger, apathy... the list goes on and on. When we begin to realize that we are "in Christ," and no longer the same as a result, everything begins to fall into place for us. We can finally learn what it means to live our lives differently. Instead of defining ourselves by what we won't do, what we aren't---you know, in negative terms---we can begin to see possibilities as followers of Jesus that we may not have ever seen before.
I think this is the way of the Church as we journey forward.
What does the Church look like when it clings to head knowledge of God over heart knowledge? Does it look inwardly focused, preoccupied with preservation? Or does it become so obsessed with getting the rules right and being righteous that it looses sight of its calling to be a city on a hill?
How does it manifest in individual congregations or communities of faith? Do they become places where everyone has "I" sight issues? You know, where people are more concerned about their own needs and desires that the message of the kingdom of God is lost in their whining. Maybe it looks like a community racked by division brought about by gossip and dissension. Perhaps it becomes a constricted and narrow community that is more afraid of failing than trying.
The true characteristics of the Church are Loyalty to Christ and Love of neighbor. If either one of these is missing, you can be certain that the congregation or faith community in question has focused on head rather than heart knowledge. Paul asserted that when Christ fills the Church it makes it complete. A congregation who grasps this understanding of the fullness of Christ quite easily gets that the Church's relationship with God is made complete when Christ is at the center of all it says and does, and our neighbors are loved unconditonally.
It's time we stepped into the hope of the "glorious inheritance" that Paul believed awaited followers of Christ and the Church.
It's time to bridge the 18 inches between our head and our heart--inches that may as well be miles for some of us.
It's time to live life differently.