We can all gather a lot of different advice for our lives by reading the Bible. Most of it is good, I suppose. Some not so much, I’m sure. Much of it can be just plain hard to understand, let alone follow.
Here’s one I can I understand, but I have much trouble following. “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). I’m about to explain why I’m having trouble following this.
To actually understand this or any other biblical advice, it’s best to understand the context. Context in itself is normally hard to understand. Especially when it belongs to the biblical writers and readers living so long ago and far away from us. But in this case, Paul the Advisor (aka the Apostle), made the context quite clear by writing it all this way:
“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was In the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth…..” (Philippians 2:5-10).
Now I could say, kind of like Mark Twain, that the hardest part of the Bible isn’t what I don’t but what I do understand. But adding context even in these 5 verses to explain that one word of difficult advice, I still have to offer you this true confession.
About the time I go trying to follow the advice to, in effect, “think like Jesus did,” my own mind becomes aware of this problem that won’t go away. My mind is connected in relationship first with my own body and my own soul. And…….perhaps you’re not surprised……….my body and soul are very different from each other. They both seek to inform my mind’s decisions. And my own mind gets what we may call “triangulated” in between, caught in the middle, having to decide between two very opposing sets of information. In other words, my mind is conflicted. Decide it this way, and my body will be upset all the way down to my gut. Decide it the other way, and my soul will be kind of like quietly disapproving, if you know what I mean. Not angry or upset with me. Just not pleased with what my mind’s decision turned out to be.
Okay, so here’s what I’ve learned about how “not” to follow this good biblical advice. Are you ready for this?
My body is very narcissistic.
There, I’ve said it. My body wants to feel good. Sooner rather than later. It wants what it wants when it wants it. That includes bending my knees and kneeling when I want to kneel; preferably when my knees feel most comfortable doing so. And put a soft pillow down there first, okay?
Get the picture?
My soul is very altruistic. Wants others to feel good. To not be afraid, anxious, insecure. Wants whatever happens to be helpful for other people in doing and feeling well. Wants others to be all they can be. And I’m not talking pie in the sky by and by when they die. I mean now, here on earth as it is in heaven. Before they die. My soul wants to empower others.
That’s my soul talking to my mind. Notice the difference?
If you do, then you can understand the difference between my mind and that of the Christ. You see, what Jesus Christ did with his own mind was that he chose to follow the advice of his soul at all times. When conflicted, and the Bible assures us he was conflicted even as you and I are, he always decided in favor of the altruist within. Oh, he had the same narcissist within as we do. But he just always sided with the altruist whenever he found his own narcissist opposing that inner altruist, whenever he found his body opposing his soul.
My mind doesn’t work that way. My mind likes to rationalize. Some would say I like to believe rational lies. I prefer to follow my body’s advice when it conflicts with my soul’s advice. And so whenever the Bible’s advice sides with my soul in times of those wilderness temptations and Garden of Gethsemane times of heavy perspiration, I’m not likely to think like Jesus. Not so apt to have the mind of Jesus in making my decision. Not so willing to pray “not my will but yours be done” all the while my body is sweating like crazy. Not so willing to humble myself and become obedient…….even unto death on the cross.
Up front I noted that not always is biblical advice good advice. Frankly, the writers themselves did not always have the mind of Jesus (hence the necessity of Jesus to come and speak for God in the first person; enough with that lost in translation stuff building up over time). Some not so good biblical advice privileges our body’s own narcissistic urges. Forget that altruistic empathy hogwash. Yep. That stuff’s in the Bible, too. Hate your enemies is biblical advice. That’s the easy part to follow kind. And most easily understood.
Following Jesus. Taking his advice, and applying it in my own life. Loving my enemy. Altruism. Empathy. Siding with my soul that I’ll be with permanently rather than my body that’s only here for a relative “while.” Having his mind.
I’ve got my work cut out for me, but don’t we all? And when it comes right down to it, that is the business we’re all here to mind.