Mind: Memory, Reason, Imagination
The way of love is a way of descent, of sacrifice, of setting aside our own interests, rights and demands, not because we are worthless, but because, knowing the value that God places on us, we can choose, have the power to choose, to set our needs aside in order to create an opportunity for others to find transformation.
In Philippians 2, the mind of Christ is described as being focused on and directed towards unity of thought, purpose and love; other-centred; humble to the point of counting others better than ourselves; concerned to promote the interests of others rather than our own.
To achieve this requires a constant effort of the will to redirect our reason, imagination, memory, heart - our whole selves. But also wisdom, because some people (many within the Church, especially women) have been taught to live like this to the extent of denying their appropriate needs. Many do not love themselves enough or at all, and justify their distorted, unhealthy, self-image by referring to the commandment to serve others and put them first. But we cannot properly love others unless we first love ourselves, because our own needs will not be denied. If we do not receive what we need in healthy, appropriate ways, then our needs will surface in unhealthy and inappropriate ways. They will assert themselves through our caring, which will become a means of extracting attention, respect, admiration, obedience or love from others, or a means of exerting control over them. She is a woman who is always sacrificing herself for others, and you can tell who they are by their haunted expressions. Caring for others is not enough in itself. We have to care for them in a caring fashion. Without tying ourselves in knots of anxiety, we need to become more aware of the effect we have on other people and occasionally ask ourselves the question: does my care of others enable them to become more self-reliant, creative and whole, or is it a way of reinforcing their dependence on me? Does it set them free, or imprison them?
Christ's mind was directed towards setting aside all that filled it, so that he could hear the voice of God, and could make space for others. This takes human effort (Philippians 2.12) but also the help of God (2.13). In 1 Corinthians 13.4-6, we see listed the qualities which make space for others. They are not natural to us - even when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, they are not natural to us. We may long for the Holy Spirit to so fill us that it becomes natural and easy to love, but the Holy Spirit does not work like that. Unpicking and retraining the habits of a lifetime is a lifelong process. Gradually, through God's grace, encouragement, inspiration, forgiveness and acceptance, and our effort too, we become perfected in love. Holiness and prayer come as part of the deal.
Critique of cerebral/rational/reason/word-dominated worship, personal devotion. The sleep of reason brings forth monsters. Need for a theological undergirding.
When Paul wrote to encourage the Philippians, he urged them to keep their minds
focused on those things that were true, honourable, just, pure, pleasing,
commendable, excellent and worthy of praise.
A renewed mind, he told the Romans, is the source of a far-reaching
transformation that enables us to discern the will of God, and offer the
spiritual worship of bodies dedicated as a living sacrifice. Paul practised what he preached: his letters
are full of stories, metaphors, illustrations and imagery.
Using our imaginations in prayer
Listen, for example, to the Holocaust. Take the train. Enter the gas chamber. Remember that you can walk out. They could not. Read how Jews were persecuted and killed for centuries before the Nazis came to power. A few individual Christians saying sorry doesn’t do it.
The mind in prayer:
Reasoning: noticing what is going on, collecting data, looking for patterns, questioning, searching for truth.
John 4.1-42. Process of encounter, questioning and discovery. The truth of God and the truth of myself (the truth of others).
Matthew 7.1-5. Process of discovery about ourselves, which enables us to see others more clearly and accurately.
Remembering: making connections, gathering associations, harvesting gratitude, tracing wounds to their source. Hearing my story. Becoming the protagonist (chief actor) in my story.
Imagining: seeing visions and dreaming dreams.
Discipleship: learning to share God’s vision and make it real. Eyes on the prize.
Knowing my treasure (Matthew 6.19-33). Treasure: “when you have dreamed your fill - yet more” (Margery Allingham). The wealth that is not money.