Thursday, February 3

Soma and Psyche

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

Early scholars and philosophers developed the notion that human beings are more than just biological organisms. We are creatures possessing both body and spirit, or if you prefer the Latin terminology, soma and psyche. This is particularly interesting to me in light of God's greatest commandment. We are told that we must love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Apparently, both our soma and psyche must be involved in order to honor God and obey this commandment.

The question is, how do we do this, and how do we do it in a meaningful way? James 2:17 tells us that faith without works is dead. Similarly, I believe that when it comes to obeying God, we must engage our hearts and minds along with our physical actions. The Bible gives a number of examples to support this idea. Consider the following verses:

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give...for God loves a cheerful giver.--2 Corinthians 9:7

That verse can be broken down into two distinct pieces. The physical expression of obedience in that verse is the act of giving. We also see that there is a particular mindset that makes the giving more acceptable in God's eyes. By giving cheerfully, we combine a worshipful heart and attitude with a worshipful act.

If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames but have not love, I gain nothing.--1st Corinthians 13:3

Here is another example of the importance of acting in a way that merges soma and psyche. All the actions we do, not matter how significant, are nothing unless they are done out of love. What I notice most about that verse is that the word love is not used as an adverb. The verse doesn't say that actions of faith are meaningless unless they are done in a loving manner. Rather, it points at love as the reason for the action. In particular, it is our love for God that should motivate us to certain actions.

It is sometimes easy for us to separate our physical actions from our mental attitudes. At one time or another, each of us has been physically present at a church service without being mentally or spiritually connected to what is going on there. We may pay lip service to God when we rattle off a prayer before a meal, meanwhile failing to actually engage in communication with him.

As Christians it is very important that we continually honor God in our actions as well as our thoughts. We must be careful not to separate the two as a matter of convenience. The driving force behind our actions should always come from the awareness that we are not only physical beings, but spiritual ones as well, connected to God through the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives. God is present with us at all times, and we are commanded to love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength--not merely portions of them and certainly not each of them separately.


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