How do you think? Or, a better question is, What has formed the way you think? SDcientists call this question “epistemology” from the Greek word “episteme.” How you think flows from what has shaped how you think. So, what do you allow to shape your thinking? Because how you think, and what you think shapes your choices, attitudes, and decisions. It’s the reason why the Church’s wisdom on repentance is so foundational to becoming a true Christian.
Metanoia, the Greek word we translate as “repentance,” literally means “to change your mind.” Surprised? Did you think repentance meant feeling guilty over breaking a rule? Did you think repentance was saying “I’m sorry, God”? That very exercise shows you that you’ve allowed the wrong things to shape how you think!
And it’s the reason St. Paul, in today’s lesson, uses the provocative statement “have this mind among yourselves…” St. Paul insists that thinking like Jesus thinks leads to living like Jesus lives. Ans then Paul goes further and insists that we encourage all around us to think this way as well!
Look at our lesson today in Philippians 2:5-11:
Brethren, have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
For years I thought I was supposed to have “the mind of Christ” by myself. Turns out it isn’t possible for one person to have “the mind of Christ” alone. The only way for us to have the “mind of Christ” is in the community of the Church. And what does St. Paul mean when he says “the mind of Christ?” Well, think about it for a minute. To have the “mind of Christ” is to think like Jesus thinks; reason like Jesus reasons, and make decisions like Jesus makes decisions. In other words, St. Paul is telling the Philippian Church and us that we are supposed to be so united with one another that we all help each other think like Jesus – to have the “mind of Christ.”
So, how does Jesus think?
First, Jesus knows Who He is but doesn’t demand What He deserves. Jesus Christ knew He was equal to the Father and that His unity with the Father in the Holy Trinity meant He and the Father were one. But, the Lord’s mission required Him to humble Himself and be obedient to the horrible death of the cross. The Lord knew that this obedience was necessary to set the universe right again and He willingly set His prerogatives aside to serve us. So, if we, in the Church (no one could ever hope to do this by himself) are to think like Jesus, that means we each set aside our demands for the common good of the Church. We “prefer” our brother, as St. Paul tells the Romans to do in Romans 12:10.
Next, Jesus thinks bigger than the temporary. The Lord could only face the pain and the terror of the cross if He was able to see past the pain to the gain. His joy at the wonderful outcome of destroying death by death strengthened Him to face His temporary challenges. So, we, as the Church, have to never allow temporary challenges to poison our fellowship. We have to think like Jesus when it comes to problems in the Church, and see past them to the purpose of the Church to make us “like Christ.”
Finally, Jesus enjoys the Father’s favor. The Lord’s obedience and vision mean He recognizes that the glory as the Father’s Son is never diminished by His humility, and, not only that but the Lord’s humility is turned into praise from “heaven and on earth and under the earth.” It’s the sad and divided mentality of everyone always trying to “have it my way” that wars against the whole Church holding the comprehensive and all-consuming “mind of Christ” together and all of us benefiting from this sense of unity of purpose, motivation, and humble service.
As we celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, this first great feast of the New Church Year, we are invited to rejoice and learn from this event about the God we worship. Our God loves His creation, and He loves His creation so very much that He arranges the history of the world to allow for this very moment to occur; the birth of the woman who would become the “gateway” for God to enter His world to redeem humanity by taking flesh from one of our kind, thereby exalting His created humans to the place He had made them for in the first place before they fell from their lofty calling. The birth of Mary from her righteous parents, her being raised in the Temple from an early age, and then being betrothed to Joseph for her protection, all flowed from how Mary was formed to think about God, her Faith, and her purpose, from a very early age. There is simply no substitute for allowing the wisdom of the faith to form your thinking and the thinking of your children to combat the mad narcissism of this present age. But this formation of thinking has to be done proactively. It won’t happen automatically. You have to make sure what shapes your thinking lines up with how Jesus thinks, and that is always from an eternal perspective and not the short-sighted temptations of undisciplined desires!
Today, in your parish, do you help your parish have the “mind of Christ” in your choices, your motivations, and your service? Are you contributing to all of you collectively thinking like Jesus, or do you catch yourself insisting on your own way? If we are ever going to live a Normal Orthodox Life, then we have to come to grips with the fact that we will never be that by ourselves. We need each other! And we need to be disciplined in how we think and what forms our thinking. We need to have the Mind of Christ in us all!
P.S. In your holy birth, Immaculate One, Joachim and Anna were rid of the shame of childlessness; Adam and Eve of the corruption of death. And so your people, free of the guilt of their sins, celebrate crying: “The barren one gives birth to the Theotokos, who nourishes our life.”