United Church of Christ

Small Group Discussion: Heart, Soul, Mind, and Neck

Questions for Discussion:

What do you think of Vince Amlin’s question, “How can you be sure you love someone if they’ve never made you angry enough to destroy them?”  Does that make sense to you?

How important do you think it is to “keep covenant in the face of anger”?

Vince says, “When I think of the most significant relationships in my life, they’ve all included conflict.”  Has that been your experience personally?  In your life at church?

Scripture Passage: 

Exodus 33:1-6

The Lord said to Moses, “Go, leave this place, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, and go to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’  I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, or I would consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

When the people heard these harsh words, they mourned, and no one put on ornaments.  For the Lord had said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, and I will decide what to do to you.’”  Therefore the Israelites stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward. 

Heart, Soul, Mind, and Neck

"God said to Moses, '...Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.'" - Exodus 33:3

I'm always a little wary when a couple comes in for premarital counseling and they say they've never had an argument. Makes me question their readiness for lifelong commitment.

How can you be sure you love someone if they've never made you angry enough to destroy them?

Maybe that's a strange way to look at it. Perhaps we should be looking for the one we never fight with. At least we might expect that God would be such a partner. Unless of course we've opened the Bible.

Instead, the God who leads Moses & Company is a God who can keep covenant in the face of anger. God still welcomes the Hebrew people into the land of milk and honey but needs to take a timeout and cool down all the same.

When I think of the most significant relationships in my life, they've all included conflict, moments when friends and family were mad enough to destroy me. And then they didn't. Despite their anger, they chose forgiveness.

Those moments taught me something about the depth and reality of their love for me. A love based on never arguing is a fragile love. It may disappear if trouble comes. But a love that stays committed when I am at my most stiff-necked is a love I can depend upon. That's the love I'd follow into the wilderness.


God of stiff-necked people, (like me) may frustration give way to forgiveness and all know the depth of love in which they are held.

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