Literally speaking, we cannot acquire the mind of someone else. So, we must try to understand what Paul meant in Philippians 2:5, when he urged us to, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.”
The passage becomes clearer if we understand Paul to mean attaining the ‘state of mind’ of Jesus. But a state of mind evokes thoughts and ideas and what is limited to mental activity. I believe Paul had a greater objective and was asking us to emulate the ‘state of consciousness’ of Jesus.
Was it a State of Consciousness?
A state of consciousness is more than mental activity. In addition to thoughts and ideas, it also includes beliefs, values, and emotions, even the outcome of our life experience. Paul wants us to try understanding what constituted the unique consciousness of Jesus. A consciousness that allowed him to carry on his extraordinary ministry. Although short, it would revolutionize spiritual awareness forever, well beyond the more traditional field of religious activity.
How can we attempt to conceptualize the state of consciousness of Jesus Christ? Fortunately, Jesus helps us in that search with his first major teaching known as The Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5–7). In that sermon, Jesus astonished his listeners because he significantly modified what they had been taught all along. They understood sinning as defined by the law of Moses and specifically by the Ten Commandments. Hebrews knew what sinning was. Yet, Jesus went much farther. He stated that any thought about any sinful act was just as much a sin as the act itself. He meant that our intents, urged by our fears and desires, can be just as sinful as known sinful acts.
Thoughts, Intent, and Desires Can be Sinful
Jesus knew that our spiritual life depends on our state of consciousness. We need to become aware of the thoughts we entertain and the words we use in addition to the way we treat others. That awareness is the first step in making changes toward a more spiritual life.
Let’s note that the root of the word ‘sin’ in Aramaic, the ancient Hebrew language used by Jesus is, ‘missing the mark.’ Therefore, let’s broaden our understanding of what a sin really is: a sin is anything that gets in the way of achieving our spiritual objective.
Jesus Expended the Notion of Sin
In Matthew 6:23, Jesus was urging us to, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” So, in Jesus’ mind, a sin is anything holding us from our objective to seek the divine Kingdom—and to receive all the promised ‘things of God.’ You can see how most of us are too often like a driver given directions to a desired location who is lost due to not following directions.
Forbidden acts judged to be sinful are a function of one’s values and Jesus made his values very clear. The Sermon on the Mount start with The Beatitudes—a passage where Jesus outlines the desirable attributes of the dedicated seeker. The Beatitudes reflect Jesus’ over-arching value expressed in John 4:7, “God is love.” Jesus was simply telling us that any thought or intent like any action that is unloving toward ourselves and others is sinful.
The Sermon on the Mount is the outline of how to live as a faithful follower of Jesus. Jesus was telling us how to individually rise in consciousness. Since God is love, it follows that God loves loving and loves those who are loving towards others. That love is expressed not simply by not hurting others but by being kind, civil, and helpful to them.
The Collective Consciousness Has an Effect on Us
All of us are subjected to the activity of the collective consciousness which is particularly active in our modern world. We are subjected to excessive exposure to an unqualified flow of information and entertainment. Excessive exposure to visual and auditory suggestions comes at us from all directions. The suggestions can be attractive and they can also be repugnant. We are simply on the receptive end. However, we must respond to such suggestions. Some can be ignored instantly for being of no consequence or interest to us. Others are so far out of our range of values that they can also be automatically dismissed as a reflex reaction. However, some suggestions might attract our attention with an initial emotional response. It can run the entire gamut of desire, fear and/or anger. We are tested by these emotional responses. They will test our values, our beliefs, and our morality. They cannot be ignored and how we react to these types of stimulation is both useful and valuable.
We Are Here to Learn
I believe that life is a school that gives us the opportunity to learn from whatever unfolds in our experience. We progressively become aware of what we want more of and what we want less of. These decisions call upon our values. As a result, we either rise in consciousness or regress.
Thanks to the unconditional love of God, even when we regress we always have the opportunity to change and progress. Not because others tell us to do so, but as we learn from our actions and decisions. This process teaches us that our tomorrows are the projection of our values and beliefs of today. And the best way to improve our tomorrows is to rise higher in consciousness today. It is also the best way to live our spiritual life.
The Actions of Our Elected Officials Are an Extension of Ours
Christians should know that when electing officials, the actions and policies of these officials reflect on them. As a voter we are responsible for staying informed. The policies and actions of these officials when they hurt other people or the environment become our responsibility. That is true whether these others live nearby or across the globe.
Politicians we elect become an extension of our actions. We cannot ignore that relationship. When we are ignoring it, it continues the cycle of our missing the mark.
An extract from the essay of the same name from the recently published book, Religion, Politics, and Reclaiming the Soul of Christianity: A Spiritual Imperative for Our Time and Our Nation, by Jon Canas. Available at: http://Reclaimingthesoul.info
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