In every committee you can always spot two kinds of people: the dreamers and the nitpickers. Some carry a big vision and some carry a big ledger.
They almost never get on together. One sets the sail and gazes into the far horizon, the other drops anchor and counts the water-barrels.
Now: spot the paradox in this passage (in Ephesians 5): “ Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…”
Do you see it? It starts off with nitpickers (“Be VERY careful…”) and ends with dreamers (“Sing and make music!”).
The paradox of the Christian life is that both certainly belong together. Verse 15 says, “Look carefully then how you walk.” Verse 17 says, “Do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is.” We are called to use our brains. Look carefully! Know yourself, know your enemy, know your commander, know the situation, apply your mind to understand what the Lord wills in this crucial time.
Think things through!
And yet…. (thank God for the “And yet…”) we are called (in v19) to celebrate. We should be singing inside no matter what. Heads AND hearts fully engaged.
I remember attending a theology lecture many years ago at the Nazarene Theological College in Manchester. As the lecturer spoke, I found myself involuntarily rising to my feet. He paused, caught my eye, smiled and asked me to take my seat. It was the strangest thing. My head was exploding with a new idea and my heart (and feet) responded. The joy of theology has never left me.
We don’t merely scrutinize the goodness of God; we should also be overwhelmed by it! We should not just analyze the message of the Bible, we should be swept up into song when we read it. We shouldn’t be content to formulate a theory of salvation, we should be filled with gratitude that we are saved.
And now, as a teacher, the danger is that praise and gratitude may be swallowed up by the analytic demands of academic work.
But on the other hand the life of the emotions is often cultivated at the expense of the life of the mind. Careful thought and study and right doctrine is swallowed up by the ecstatic demands of the community.
Dreamers and nitpickers – how we need each other!
If you are all cerebral with little emotion, don’t brag about it. It’s a weakness not a strength.
And if you are all emotional with little bent for study and analysis, don’t brag about it. It’s a weakness, not a strength. Strive to nurture your mind’s capacity for thinking and understanding the work of God.
Don’t surrender the paradox. Here it stands in Scripture. And without it your celebration is superficial or it may have intellectual depth and yet be lukewarm.