The Roman empire from centuries ago was (and is still) known for its massive military dominance over surrounding countries and enemies. Rome engaged better-trained men on the battlefield, improved weaponry fit for their fighting style, and most of all, they were trained in superior tactics. Early on, however, there existed one major systematic flaw that hamstrung them time and time again. At any given battle, on any given day, Rome employed two separate Generals who took turns leading the same military. Two men would be chosen to be Generals over a particular Roman army when they were sent off to war. These two Generals would then trade off complete leadership every so often, even to the point of making calendars with who reigned on which days of the week. This idea came out of the mindset that “competition brings out the best of men” and the hope that one person would never come to use to the complete power. However, what this ended up creating was an army who on many occasions had two separate agendas, two separate schedules, and even two separate ways of conducting battle. One general would choose to go to war with their enemy based on the fact that it was his day to lead, and completely ignore any other success/failure determining factors. It’s easy to see how having two separate leaders try to lead at the same time over the same body could have terrible repercussions.
As Christians, I believe we experience something like this almost every day of our walk with God. The two “generals” that vie for complete control over our life’s decisions and actions are known to us as our head (our knowledge) and our hearts (our emotions). Just like in the example above when one is in complete control there are often negative consequences. Take the Pharisees as an example of a group who let their head rule over everything else. We can see this on display in Mark 3 when Jesus attempts to heal a man in front of them on the sabbath day. Mark 3:4-5a, “And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart…” The Pharisees had completely removed any emotion or care to the act of following the law and became legalistic in their devotion to God and judgment of others. This happens today in our own lives when we measure our faith in God by the knowledge that we have of Him and His Word.
On the contrary, there also obvious problems when we let our hearts have complete control over our lives. Paul sees this very problem with the Gentiles in Romans 10:2-3, “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” They have the passion for God, but without the accurate knowledge of the righteousness of God they end up not being able to correctly submit to God. Another example of a life that is only led by the heart is seen in Matthew 16 when Peter rebukes Jesus after Jesus explains His plans to go to Jerusalem. Peter responded to Jesus by saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” I don’t fault Peter for having this feeling toward Christ and his Savior’s safety however, this shows us how the heart can mislead when not connected to the mind. Peter is not connecting his emotions with the knowledge he has of Jesus’ purpose and on account of this, he is telling Jesus to forget His greater objective, death on the cross.
So, how should the head and the heart work in our lives? Are they mortal enemies locked in a never-ending battle for control, or are they eternal teammates that both bring valuable insight into our lives? As always, Jesus’ perfect example of a life provides us the answer to our question. In the life of Jesus, we see how He employed both His heart (Matt. 9:36) and His mind (Matt. 4:3) working seamlessly together to achieve a spiritual walk that had both knowledge and passion. Never relying too much on one or the other, Jesus shows us that our heads and our hearts are meant to be like two separate parts of one engine. An example of this can be seen on the eve of His death in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus utters one simple statement that is profound to our discussion today, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Even in the midst of the extreme stress He was under, while Jesus is pouring out His heart to His Father, He doesn’t neglect His understanding of God’s will. The cross is the ultimate display of a Man who let both His heart and His mind inspire Him to do what was necessary to accomplish God’s will. Today, who is in control in your life? Do you rely on your knowledge of God to carry your faith, or is your life dictated by the emotions that you feel? If we hope to accomplish what is expected of us in our own lives, let us live out the thought conveyed by David to his son in 1 Chronicles 28:9, “…serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind…”