The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a classic story that resonates with everyone, even if they have not seen the movie or read the story. Mention the yellow brick road and prepare to be transported to the land of short, blue-clothed Munchkins and flying monkeys. But I am amazed by this classic story’s deeper message for Christians.
The main character, Dorothy, is carried away from the gray, dreary Kansas farmland by a cyclone to the wonderfully enchanted land of Oz. On her way to the Emerald City, the central city in Oz, she meets several colorful companions, starting with a Scarecrow who has a head full of straw (but no brains), a Tin Woodman with an empty tin can for a body (but no heart), and a Cowardly Lion that is all roar (but no courage).
As the friends travel along the yellow brick road to the Emerald City, the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman debate which is more important – a brain or a heart.
“’I shall ask [Oz] for brains instead of a heart; for a fool would not know what to do with a heart if he had one,’ [said the Scarecrow]. ‘I shall take the heart,’ returned the Tin Woodman; ‘for brains do not make one happy, and happiness is the best thing in the world.’ Dorothy did not say anything for she was puzzled to know which of her two friends was right.”
This debate might sound familiar to Christians. We debate whether having head-knowledge or heart-knowledge of God is better – in other words, whether it is better to believe the right things or to be more spiritual. Sometimes, Christians seem at odds and divided into Scarecrows and Tin Woodmen.
But can we separate the two? Aren’t we called to love God with our brains and hearts and live out our convictions with courage?
The answer is learning apologetics, which means learning how good reasons support passionate Christianity. Apologetics is the yellow brick road we must travel to a full spiritual life that helps us grow on all levels –intelligence, affection, and courage.
The Scarecrow and Our Brains
Apologetics develops our intelligence by focusing on the reasons for our belief in Jesus. This concentration allows us to take in truths and ideas that are God-honoring and beneficial to understanding our faith at a deeper level. Unfortunately, a deeper faith does not always come quickly. It takes effort on our part and a willingness to challenge ourselves with new ideas.
The Apostle Paul puts this into perspective for us, “[We are] transformed by the renewal of our mind… [so that we can know] what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). This requires humility, a teachable spirit, purposeful investments of our time, attention to detail, and a willingness to set everything against the standard of Scripture.
The Scarecrow felt he had no intelligence because his head was full of straw, but the Great Oz pointed out that the Scarecrow was learning daily through the challenges he and his friends faced. What the Scarecrow failed to realize was that he already had a brain. When God created us in His image, He gave us brains… and He expects us to use them!
Develop your intelligence with apologetics and commit to lifelong learning!
The Tin Woodman and Our Hearts
While sharing why we believe in God, apologetics develops our hearts as we focus on the people we encounter and not solely on winning an argument. Our “people” focus should motivate us to “build [others] up” (1 Cor. 8:1) through our prayers.
The heart development happens in what we pray for:
· First, we pray that God would give us a spirit of humility, wisdom, understanding, and clarity to listen to and answer questions as they arise.
· Second, we pray that those we speak to about God would have their lives changed by His truth and be transformed, just as He has and is transforming us.
Our hearts, filled with the love of God, bring warmth to our interactions with others. Even though the Tin Woodman felt his empty chest cavity meant he had no heart and no way of controlling his feelings, he was highly aware of how his actions would impact those around him. “I have no heart, you know, so I am careful to help all those who may need a friend, even if it happens to be only a mouse.”
Develop your heart with apologetics, and let prayer change you!
The Cowardly Lion and Our Courage
Apologetics develops our courage because we are given daily opportunities to live out our beliefs and point others to Christ. We exercise our courage by being intentional in our actions and how we do them. Our goal with apologetics is not just to fill our heads with knowledge but to seek the greatest good for others by loving them like Jesus.
This can be intimidating because it involves putting ourselves out there and sharing why we believe in Jesus. What happens if we do it wrong or offend others? These are the moments when we need courage to risk our comfort for the sake of others.
When the friends finally meet the great Wizard of Oz, he reassures the Lion that he already has the courage he has been seeking: “There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The True courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty.” If we know God, we must face our fears and courageously obey Jesus’ command to love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31).
Develop your courage with apologetics and live your faith boldly!
There’s No Place Like the Ending
The greatest apologetic we have as Christians is how we live our lives. And how are we to live?
Jesus commands us to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:28- 30). Apologetics develops our whole person—heart, mind, soul, and strength—and is worth our time and investment. I have seen this to be true in my own life.
We may not have a Yellow Brick Road to walk, but Scripture does depict the Christian life as a journey, a pilgrimage, a quest toward heaven. This road takes both intelligence and heart. Will we muster the courage to walk this journey well?