Head, Heart, and Hand Christians

I can remember hearing these three descriptions of believers over 30 years ago in the Christian circles in which I traveled.

The “Head Christians” are those believers who make theology or doctrine the totality of the Christian life. Orthodoxy, right/approved belief, is the fundamental feature of Christianity. We might call these believers the “intellectual” Christians.

The “Heart Christians” are those believers who see the experience of Jesus in a personal way as the totality of the Christian life. They are concerned about passion for Christ and cultivating an abiding love for Him. We might call these believers the “relational” Christians.

The “Hand Christians” are those believers who consider service for Jesus as the totality of the Christian life. They commit themselves to social justice and caring for the needs of the poor. We might call these believers the “practical” Christians.

The dangerous word in each of these descriptions is the word “totality.” Each takes one aspect of Christianity and “canonizes” it as the essence or core of the Christian life. I would contend that the totality of the Christian life lies in a balanced combination of all three.

The risk for the head Christian is that her Christian life can be reduced to cold rationality. This person needs to remember that the Scriptures speak often of God’s love for us and our love for God, of Jesus’ love for us and of our love for Jesus. It is a mistake to subsume the love of Christ into a doctrine without experiencing that love herself. Out of her doctrine and relationship with Christ comes the desire to serve.

The risk for the heart Christian is that his Christian life can become all emotion and affection without substance. The reality is that every Christian has a theology the only real question is whether it is a good or bad theology. Even the statement, “I don’t care about theology, I just believe in Jesus” is a highly theological one. What does the Bible mean by “believe”-affirmation of facts, heart commitment, submission of the will? The answer is a theological one. Who does the Bible say Jesus is? The answer is a theological one. The heart Christian needs to know theology because it gives direction to his personal experience of Jesus. Out of his relationship and doctrine with Christ can grow service for others.

The risk for the hand Christian is that his Christian life can become good works that are divorced from the theological substance and personal relationship which should drive those good works. This has happened in a multitude of churches which became all about service and lost doctrine and relationship. It is important for the hand Christian to be intentionally aware of the “why” behind his service and to draw strength from his doctrine and relationship in doing his good works.

While no Christian may be the extreme versions described above, I believe every Christian tends to lean in one direction or another. I lean in the direction of the head Christian. In the new heavens and new earth we will have a perfect balance. In the meantime, it is part of the glory of the grind to seek the grace of God in Christ to move us toward that balance in our daily experience.

Which of these three descriptions do you lean toward?

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