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When Christians Love Theology More Than People

“You may have the most intellectually sound theology, but if it’s not delivered with love, respect, and kindnessit’s worthless.”

By Stephen Mattson

Beyond the realm of churches, religious blogs and Bible colleges, nobody really cares about theology. What doesmatter is the way you treat other people.

Within Christendom, were often taught the exact opposite: that doctrines, traditions, theologies and distinct beliefs are the only things that domatter. Its what separates churches, denominations, theologians and those who are saved and unsaved.

Historically, Christians have been tempted to categorize the Bible into numerous sets of beliefs that are either inspired or heretical, good or bad, right or wrongwith no room for doubt or questioning or uncertainty.

Its easy to get caught up in theorizing about God, but within our everyday lives reality is what matters most to the people around us. Theorizing only becomes important once it becomes relevant and practical and applicable to our lives.

When I’m sick, and you bring me a meal, I don’t care whether you’re a Calvinist or Arminian.

When I’m poor, and you give me some food and money, I don’t care if you’re pre-millennial or post-millennial.

When I’m in the hospital, and you send me a get-well basket, I don’t care what your church denomination is.

When you visit my grandparents in the nursing home, I don’t care what style of worship music you listen to.

When you’re kind enough to shovel my parent’s driveway, I don’t care what translation of the Bible you read.

When you give my friend a lift when their car breaks down, I don’t care if youre Baptist or Catholic.

When you help my grandmother carry a heavy load of groceries, I don’t care what you believe about evolution.

When you protect my kids from getting hit by a car when they’re running across the street, I don’t care who your favorite theologian is.

When youre celebrating my birthday with me, I dont care about your views related to baptism.

When you grieve alongside me during the death of a family member, I dont care if you tithe or not.

When you love me in deep and meaningful and authentic waysnothing else really matters.

But when you idolize belief systems and turn theology into an agenda, it poisons the very idea of selfless love. The gospel message turns into propaganda, friends turn into customers and your relationship with God turns into a religion.

You may have the most intellectually sound theology, but if it’s not delivered with love, respect and kindnessit’s worthless.

The practical application of your love is just as important as the theology behind it. Our faith is evidenced by how we treat others. Does the reality of your life reflect the theory behind your spiritual beliefs?

We should never give up on theology, academic study, or the pursuit of understanding God, the Bible, and the history and traditions of the church, but these things should inspire us to emulate Christto selflessly, sacrificially and holistically love others. Theology should reinforce our motivation for doing things to make the world a better placenot serve as platforms to berate, criticize and attack others.

But too often, were guilty of failing to practically apply our beliefs in tangible ways that actually help others. In the end, this is what matters most to the world around us: that we simply love as Christ loved.

About the Author: Stephen Mattson has contributed for Relevant Magazine and the Burnside Writer’s Collective,and studied Youth Ministry at the Moody Bible Institute. He is now on staff at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minn. Follow him on Twitter @mikta.

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