Monday, February 11, 2008

The Word and the whole person: Dt 11:18-21

"You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your sons may be multiplied on the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens remain above the earth." (Deuteronomy 11:18-21)
Reading these verses, I began to wonder what was the difference between impressing God's word on our heart and on our soul? In several places through out the scripture, God speaks of various parts, or facets, of who we are. For example, listen to the scripture Jesus quoted in the Gospel of Mark. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength." (Mark 12:30) Jesus' mention of the heart, soul, mind, and strength are consistent with this scripture from Deuteronomy when you consider the imagery of "a sign on your hand" (strength) and "as frontals on your forehead" (mind).

Many people have endeavored to categorize the various aspect of the human person and to assign them to divisions of who we are, typically: body, soul, and spirit. While such distinctions may be useful as aids to understand some scriptures and our relationship to them, I am becoming to believe that, from God's perspective, we are not divided people (body, soul, and spirit) but rather whole people who are both body, soul, and spirit. For example, I am a son, a father, and a brother. These are three distinct aspects of who I am. However, you cannot separate any one of them from the others. At all times, I am all three, yet I am one person.

I think care must be taken not to take such imagery from the scriptures and extend them to doctrines that embody distinctions not intended by the scriptures. For example, doctrines that would seek to assign emotions as operating in the realm of the soul, or perhapses to the flesh. Emotions are part of the whole person, they are part of who we are: body, soul, and spirit. I believe that these scriptures do not intend to provide distinct divisions in who we are but rather are meant to convey the totality by which we must love, server, and obey the Lord God.

In the mentioned scripture from Deuteronomy, I believe that what Moses is trying to convey is our total need for the word of God. The word of God must be appropriated and integrated into all of who we are. Every aspect of our lives should, and must, be affected and influenced by God's word. Jesus concurred when He quoted from Deuteronomy, "It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God'" (Matthew 4:4) God's word should form the basis of all that we are and all that we do. It should be central to our lives and our relationships. It is the word of God that gives us life and separates us from the world and, lest we forget, it is the word of God that also saves us.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. And the Word became flesh , and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:1-2, 14)
David Robison

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