Perhaps you have seen it too… the bumper sticker which reads: Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.
A more serious take on the same theme would be the motto of the United Negro College Fund: A mind is a terrible thing to waste.
By “mind” I mean that part of us that distinguishes us humans from lower life forms—our capacity to think, to reason, to evaluate, to make judgments and form opinions. When, for some reason, we lose the ability to use our minds, we lose touch with reality, our judgment is clouded, our ability to perceive and understand is distorted. Yes, a mind is a terrible thing to waste.
It’s bad enough when a single individual loses the capability to think clearly and perceive realistically, whether through injury or disease or drug abuse or psychological and emotional trauma. When groups of people with the same or similar distortions in their thought processes and their facility to make judgments band together, they can form movements and create forces for evil that destroy lives and wreak emotional and physical havoc. As examples, consider the Nazis in WW2, or the Ku Klux Klan, or those folks from Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas whose intense hatred of homosexuals has so distorted their thinking that they disrupt the funerals of US military veterans.
Our ability to think clearly, to judge rightly, to perceive correctly is the most important part of who we are. Proverbs 23:7 tells us…”As a person thinks in his heart, so he is. Everything we do is a product of the way we think, the way we perceive reality, the way we form judgments and determine value.
That is particularly true when it comes to the church. But I fear that the contemporary Christian community, the church in America especially, has lost its mind. Here’s what I mean.
Christians are supposed to think differently from non-believers. Our system of values is supposed to be different. The standard by which we measure the merit of ideas and behavior is the law of God and the character of Christ.
When experts in the Hebrew law asked Jesus to identify the greatest commandment, he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.”
Now, be honest. Do you think most people, including most Christians, are serious about loving God with all their mind? How much time do we spend even trying to figure out what it means to love God with all our mind?
Then, in Romans 8, Paul wrote:
5 (T)hose who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (ESV)
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul told the believers in that church:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (3:1,2 ESV)
Now, by that, Paul did not mean that Christians are to be, as the old saying goes, “so heavenly-minded that we are of no earthly good.” Rather, I think, he meant that our thought processes—the capability that God has given to each of us to think, reason, ponder, imagine; all of our faculties of perception, understanding, reflective consciousness; our ability to feel, to judge, to determine; all of these qualities that combine to make us who we are—should reflect the character of Jesus, our King, and the values of the Kingdom of God.
In fact he said as much, in no uncertain terms, when he wrote, in 1 Cor. 2:16… “We (believers) have the mind of Christ.”
And then, there is that instruction from Paul with which (for my Anglican readers) our Epistle reading for Palm Sunday, from Philippians 2, begins:
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.
That’s the New International Version translation.
The English Standard Version reads, 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. The New American Standard Bible renders it, 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus. And the King James Version simply says, 5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.
Taken together, these passages all focus upon the same idea. Christians are supposed to think like Jesus!
We’ve all seen those bracelets with the letters WWJD on them… standing for the question: What Would Jesus Do? I like them. I like to see people wearing them. I’m all for anything that reminds us that we have both the responsibility and the privilege of emulating the character and behavior of Christ as we live our lives in the midst of a non-Christian culture.
But it might actually be more accurate if those bracelets bore the letters HWJT–How Would Jesus Think?–since Jesus’ actions and behavior, just like ours, were the products of His thought processes. He acted the way He did because He thought the way He did.
When the followers of Christ don’t think like Jesus the King, the consequences can be severe. For instance, you may recall the Gospel reading which we (Anglicans) heard just a few Sundays ago, from Mark 8. The passage records Jesus’ question to His disciples, “Who do people say that I am? More importantly, who do you think I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the messiah,” and Jesus commended him for his discernment. But then, this exchange followed…
31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (NIV)
Peter, like most devout Jews in the early first century, was looking for a Messiah who would deliver Israel from the political, economic, and social oppression they had suffered as a nation, first under Babylonia, then Medo-Persia, then Greece, and now… at the time of Jesus and the Gospels… under Rome.
Peter was convinced that Jesus was the Messiah which the Hebrew scriptures had prophesied, and when he identified Him as such, Jesus commended him. But then Jesus went on to say that He would be tortured and crucified, and it was all too much for Peter to comprehend.
Messiah… crucified? How could it be? We can sympathize with Peter when the text says he took Jesus aside and began to “rebuke” Him. But then, Jesus makes it clear why Peter was confused. He was thinking like a regular person. And followers of Jesus who think like regular people are not thinking straight.
I’ll have more to say about what it means for Christians to think like Jesus in the next post. Thanks for reading.