In a few weeks my wife and I expecting our first child. Lord willing, we’ll be having a baby girl about 14 months after we first got married. As we were reflecting on what has happened in the last year or so, my wife and I marveled at ‘how much better’ we know each other now. It feels like we must have been strangers when we married! Let alone when we got engaged. Or started dating.
Which raised a question: what had we really learned about each other in the past 14 months? If we felt so much closer, so much more well acquainted, what had we actually learned about one another?
This truth is, nothing too significant. There we no earth-shattering revelations. Just small details. Like, how I enjoy jalapenos on my sandwiches. Or, how she likes sleeping in sub-arctic temperatures. In all, my basic knowledge of my wife has not changed much.
My point is this: we truly grow closer with another person, not as we learn ‘huge’ or ‘obvious’ facts about someone, but as we learn about the details of what makes them who they are. What makes my friends Owen and Joe different? They’re both white, college grads, living in DC, and committed to living as followers of Christ. But it is their differences which makes them unique. Owen likes baseball. Joe likes soccer. Owen works for a Christian ministry. Joe works for an educational company. It’s the details which make our relationships deep and meaningful.
Now apply this to the ultimate Person–God. Sometimes, in our desire for practical ministry, we stress only the need for knowing ‘obvious’ and agreed-upon facts. There is one God in three Persons, Jesus is both fully God and fully man, Jesus died for your sins–now go and live it out. No more doctrine needed. Theology keeps you crammed up in the library, when the world is in need of your Christ-like service. Stop studying, and start loving.
Now, should Christians seek to love our neighbors? Yes. Should Christians seek to apply God’s word and his counsel to all our lives? Yes. But God has also called us into relationship with him. He has called us to know him, and to be known by him. And the way we get to know him is not by simply learning basic ‘facts’ about God, or what he has done in history.
Instead, we are to study God. Not like a lab technician. But like a spouse, who seeks to better know and love and cherish one’s beloved. And one does that not simply by knowing basic statements (my wife has brown hair, she is pregnant, she is from WV), but by learning about your spouse’s intricacies (my wife likes preppy clothing, she gets startled easily, she is great at praying through our church’s directory, she likes doing laundry more than doing dishes, etc.).
So here is my basic thesis: God wants us to know him and to be known by him. And to do that, we need to study the details of who God is and what he has done in salvation-history. All that is theology and doctrine. And yes it does take time in study. But Christian study, rightly practiced, is dependent on the Holy Spirit and it takes time meditating, praying, and considering our great God.
Therefore, should we ‘stop studying, and start loving’? No, I think we should continue to study with an aim towards cultivating a deep and loving relationship with God. And from that loving relationship, we will then be truly ready to love our neighbor (Eph 4:22).