For three years of my life I attended Bible College. It was a good one. I learned a lot. Like most Bible colleges, most of the curriculum was a mixture of biblical studies and theological studies plus some very good teaching from experienced pastors about pastoring and leadership.
Theology is very important. It helps us to understand God’s revelation of Himself and of His purposes. We need to grow in our theological understanding so that our ideas about God accurately reflect the reality of who He is.
And if you think you don’t have a theology, you do! Once you believe anything about God you have begun to ‘do’ theology.
Sometimes however our appreciation of theology isn’t balanced by our need to understand people.
We sometimes seem content to “do” God, whether in formal study or in the pursuit of spiritual experiences, without giving much thought about how God wants us to “do” people.
This is surprising since huge chunks of the New Testament are taken up with what we might call “peopleology”.
Romans 12.14-21 is a case in point. It’s all about people. Bringing the best out of people. Winning with people. I know that all sounds like personal development speak. Truth be told, we have often left “peopleology” to self-help gurus while we’ve got on with our quest for deeper knowledge or more impressive spiritual experiences.
So what does good “peopleology” look like?
Firstly, mercy (14,17, 19-20)
Secondly, empathy (15)
Thirdly, harmony (16,18)
Fourthly, humility (16,17)
Even the ‘heaping burning coals on your enemies head’ is about repaying cursing with blessing to such an extent that your enemy has a change of heart. In other words it’s about attempting to win your enemy not trying to engineer divine wrath!
The four attributes outlined above are only a start. Read the gospels and the other New Testament epistles and you’ll find loads of “peopleology”.
“Peopleology” might not be an official discipline – though if you google it you’ll find the term is being used in the business world.
But it is an absolutely crucial discipline if we are going to build healthy, life giving communities of Christian believers.