Better Bible Study Tip #16: Clear Thinking is Not Antithetical to Love

Every now and then I’ll hear someone make a comment such as “at our church, we don’t overthink things. We don’t get bogged down in trying to dissect every scripture. We just focus on loving God and loving our neighbors. Read the red words, and listen to Jesus’s overall message, and you’ll be better off for it.”

Comments like that give me mixed feelings. There’s so much to appreciate in a statement like that. Yes, focus on loving God and loving neighbor. Those are, according to Jesus, the two greatest commands (Mt. 22:35-40). In 1 Corinthians 13:2, Paul said, “If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to apply the same principle to Bible study. Even if we grow to be experts in Bible knowledge, and can answer all the difficult questions about doctrine with skillful precision, but we don’t love God and don’t love others, all that Bible study is worthless.

And yes, one principle of good Bible study is to never loose sight of the big picture message (that was Bible Study Tip #13). And yes, ultimately all of Scripture points to Jesus, so the words written in red are of utmost importance. So yes, there is so much to appreciate in a statement like that.

What bothers me is the suggestion that clear thinking and attention to detail is somehow antithetical to love. Is it not possible to meditate on God’s word and be loving while we do it? Is it not possible to ask hard Bible questions without being a jerk about it? If we really love God, shouldn’t that drive us to make sure we are understanding and applying His words correctly? Is it not possible to pray attention to the details of God’s word without losing sight of the big picture message? Is it not possible that our assumptions about the big picture message could actually end up skewed if we don’t pay close attention to the details?

It is not a spiritual flaw to seek precise answers to hard questions. You don’t need to repent if you’re not satisfied with someone else’s explanation of a passage. Dampening our neighbor’s desire to understand scripture better by suggesting that they aren’t being a good disciple by asking hard questions isn’t part of loving our neighbor. Clear thinking is not antithetical to love.