By Amanda Jump
How we measure ‘true’ faith might say more about where our hearts bed down at night than about correctly applied faith. Many standards have gained popular usage today: lovingness and lovability, signs and wonders, baptism and glossolalia, behavior modifications, social justice fervor, health and wealth, gospels of niceness, and one’s willingness to sell all and become a missionary in Zimbabwe - all come to mind. I want to shave these issues away, however, to examine the broader base for many of these schisms in the faith.
A popular outcry in the charismatic churches I grew up in was the critical need for the ‘marriage of the Spirit and the Word’. There does seem to be a dividing line here. There are ‘Word’ churches and ‘Spirit-filled’ churches. And those denominations claiming none-of-the-above still typically lean heavily to one side or the other. So, what gives? Where did this dividing line come from? Does one denomination have more ‘true’ believers in it than another? And what of this spiritual marriage anyway? Are there churches like that - and should that be our goal?
(I’m going to answer these questions in good Jesus-like fashion below - with more questions!)
What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Did you know that -
You can be a mountain-moving spiritual giant without a thimble of love?
A world-renowned Bible scholar, interpreting scripture in a manner that gains thunderous applause from Mystery itself, and have no love?
Drain your blood dry for a social justice cause, sell all to give to the poor, and move to Oregon to be a missionary and not do any of it from a heart of love?
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 brutally shows us just how good we can appear to others without an ounce of love in our veins! Speaking of good works without love -
Have you ever thought about how worthless the marriage of the Word and Spirit might be apart from the marriage of your heart to the Bridegroom?
I haven’t stopped thinking about it since my whole sanitized and spiritual world fell apart nine years ago. After an ugly divorce, my breaking came in the form of severe disillusionment with religion, in word and spirit. My marriage was, after all, meant to be a beautiful reflection of the Bride, the Church, and our Bridegroom, Christ.
I think a few examples from my own past failed marriage can flesh out what I mean when I say that a marriage of ‘Word and Spirit’ is wholly useless apart from the marriage of our hearts to the Bridegroom.
Notes on my first marriage:
Praying together? Check.
Daily time in the Word? Check.
Involved in every church service? Check.
Deeply engaging others within the church? Check.
Serving the church? Triple check.
Pursuing the gifts of the Spirit? However ignorantly, yes.
Studying to interpret scripture rightly? However ignorantly, yes.
Giving tithes, offerings, and to the poor? As much as we were able and gladly.
Keeping a clean house open to sojourners? Yes.
Getting more excited in a church service than at a football game? Charismatically.
Caring for matters of social justice? However ignorantly, yes.
Supportive of missionaries, submissive to our leaders, and dedicated in prayer? Well, we thought so…
Yes, we tried our hands at many of the visible signs for ‘true’ love as well:
Set a regular date night? That came easily enough with no kids.
Don’t nag? Apathy can curtail that.
Be best friends? Well, in appearance anyway…
Always wear your wedding ring so others can see it? Double-check.
Only side-hug the opposite sex? Double-check.
Compliment each other - especially in public? Check.
Share your favorite activities? All the time.
Leave gifts or notes around the house, spontaneously? On occasion.
Speak the other person’s love language (Acts of Service, Touch, etc…)? We read the book; that counts, right?
Serve your spouse first? Only in appearances.
Have shared vision? All the way.
What happens when you do all of these things and your earthly marriage still ends in divorce? I share my past failures with you to remind us that all of the external evidences of devotion, in ‘Word’ or ‘Spirit’, can be acted out with motives other than love.
Our Father christened the New Covenant for good reason, namely, because we are all prone to offering lips and garments where beating hearts are required. In all of the spiritual activity and civil pleasantry of my first marriage, our hearts yet strayed. We seemed to be saying and doing all of the right things - like a beautiful spiritual marriage of ‘Word and Spirit’; yet, our hearts were full of idols.
Little children, keep yourselves from idols. - 1 John 5:21
I wonder… Have we made idols of our rightness in Word or Spirit? and, in the process, Have we made less of our love for God?
Like the Pharisees, has ‘right’ interpretation, ritualistic and public praise, replaced our beating hearts with whitewashed garments, long tassels, and eloquent facades?
Or, perhaps, has our ‘right’ in claiming the supernatural power of God sacrificed our bloody hearts on the altars of a violent vindication before men, the approvals of fame and fortune, or experiential drunkenness?
Have we said the vows, worn the ring, and danced the dance, only to exchange His love for the wedding gifts?
As it regards measurements of faith, too often the Church is found playing the part of a playground bully, saying, If I can do this thing, then it proves I am who I say I am. Which should make us wonder…
What exactly are we trying to prove?
Perhaps, we are trying to prove a love that has already died in our chests…
…you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
- Deuteronomy 13:3
As our pastor recently noted, the Gospel is about the marriage of the Bride and the Bridegroom. Let’s not be so consumed with our wedding preparations, dear Bride, that we forget what this wedding is all about -
Our Beloved One! The One our souls pant for…by the Spirit of Grace, through the Word made flesh.
Only He can make His Bride without blemish, true and faithful. In our hearts, He has already placed the only convincing proof we’ll ever need: the seal of His Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). Was it not through the Word? The Word and the Spirit are already one.
It is we who entertain divided hearts! It is we who are in need of a marriage - a marriage of heart, mind, and soul to our Beloved!
Without growing weary, you have persevered and endured many things for the sake of My name. But I have this against you: You have abandoned your first love. Therefore, keep in mind how far you have fallen. Repent and perform the deeds you did at first… - Revelation 2:3-5a
Love will always furnish the external signs of a beating heart. The external signs, however, are not always performed in love. Only God sees our hearts fully. Therefore, let’s set aside the weights and measures with which we bar others from God’s grace and become the lovers of God we were designed to be…
Signs and wonders of that love will surely follow.