Finding Nemo & Spiritual Growth

My original title was “Love & Truth: A Symbiosis,” which sounds about as interesting as a root canal.

You likely remember the scene from Finding Nemo, of the excited clown fish Marty flirting with his wife and making over their soon-to-hatch eggs. This is of course before a much larger toothy fish eats the eggs, and the wife as well it seems, but this is beside the point. Focus with me here.

The movie accurately portrays the relationship between the clown fish and the anemone. The fish eats potentially harmful invertebrate which it then (ironically) processes into fecal matter providing nourishment for the anemone. In return the anemone allows its stingy fortress to be the fish’s abode. This is a symbiotic relationship.

Spiritual growth is similarly marked by symbiosis. While often thought of in distinct categories, the Christian life is hollow without both love and truth. The Jews understood this well. Twice a day they prayed the Shema, a recognition of God’s sovereign right to our highest devotion:

HEAR (Shema in Hebrew), O ISRAEL: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. (Added: Blessed is the name of His glorious Kingdom forever and ever). You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

When Jesus was asked about the greatest command, he immediately responded, “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, strength and soul.” Love and truth are inseparable for the life of the believer. Thus, Christianity is not to be reduced to mere intellectualism or sloppy sentimentality.

I was once a part of a class where we were asked to give a ten word definition of our philosophy of Christian education. I opted to use only five words: “Living Truth in Loving Community.” The words “living” and “loving” can either be interpreted as adjectives or verbs. My point was to underscore the role of both love and truth in the formation of Christian community.

This symbiosis is also clear in the Apostle Paul’s prayer for the church in Philippi:

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)

Don’t let your head outgrow your heart. And don’t neglect the development of your mind in the expression of your passion. Love is informed by truth, and truth is confirmed in love.