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Hearts and Minds
Political leaders often speak of a battle for the ‘hearts and minds’ of the people. In recent years, as well as the physical battles that have been going on in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, there has been an even more important battle going on – for the hearts and minds of the people.
Indeed, according to the passages for today, there is a battle going on for all of our ‘hearts and minds’. What does this mean? How is this battle won?
1. Control the way you think about other peopleProverbs 24:15-22
Have you had the experience of someone doing a wrong to you or hurting you in some way and then finding out they got into trouble themselves?
This passage warns us against thinking that they are getting what they deserved and rejoicing over their problems: ‘Do not gloat when your enemies fall; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, or the Lord will see and disapprove’ (vv.17–18a).
It is so tempting to gloat when those who have been causing us problems and opposing us mess up and fall. It is rather tempting to enjoy the moment and feel that they got what they deserved. But this is the wrong response. We need to watch our hearts and resist these thoughts.
As Joyce Meyer writes ‘We should always remember that “Hurting people hurt people.” Those who hurt us are usually hurting within themselves, and their pain may be so strong that they are not even aware they are hurting us.’
Lord, forgive us for the times when we have gloated when those who have attacked us have fallen. Help us to resist the temptation to rejoice. Thank you that it is possible to control our hearts with the help of the Holy Spirit.
2. Clothe your heart and mind with loveColossians 3:1-4:1
I tend to wear very similar clothes every day. I cannot claim to have much ‘dress sense’. Yet believe it or not, before I got married, it was even worse.
When we got married, the flared trousers, misshapen sweaters with holes, string vests, ties inherited from an uncle and dilapidated trousers had to go. I hate getting rid of things – especially clothes to which I am attached. They feel like old friends. But alas, the time had come to be re-clothed.
As well as the outer clothing, our hearts and minds have an inner clothing. When we come into a relationship with God through Jesus, the old clothes have to go and we need a new set of clothes for our hearts and minds.
When we become Christians we are ‘in Christ’. We are united with him in his death and resurrection. Therefore, Paul can write that ‘you died’ (3:3). And he can also write, ‘you have been raised with Christ … your life is now hidden with Christ in God’ (vv.1,3). In the future, ‘When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory’ (v.4).
Because of all that Christ has done for us and made possible, we need to respond with our hearts and minds.
- Change what you think about (vv.1–12)
Right action begins with right thinking. If we want to live this resurrection life, made possible by Jesus Paul writes: ‘set your hearts on things above … Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things’ (vv.1–2).
This is not easy because we are surrounded by ‘earthly things’ (v.2) and temptations. We need to take radical action. He writes, ‘that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy’ (v.5, MSG). He reminds them that this is what they used to do before they were Christians.
Now you must ‘rid yourselves’ (v.8) of the bad stuff: ‘anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator’ (vv.8–10).
We are God’s chosen people and therefore we are called to live as such. This means a radical change of our position in the world. We need to be active not passive. Instead of the bad stuff, we are called to clothe ourselves with ‘compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience’ (v.12).
- Change your reaction to others (vv.13–15)
Christ lives in every Christian, regardless of background. In Christ there is no racial barrier (‘no Greek or Jew’), no religious barrier (‘circumcised or uncircumcised’), no national barrier (‘barbarian, Scythian’) and no class barrier (‘slave or free’) but ‘Christ is all, and in all’ (v.11).
Paul goes on, ‘bear with each other’ (v.13). If someone lets us down in the world, that is often the end of the relationship, but Pauls tells us to ‘forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you’ (v.13).
Forgiveness is a uniquely Christian virtue. Others may forgive but only Christians have such a solid basis for forgiveness. We have been forgiven so much that nothing we forgive compares to the amount we have been forgiven. As C.S Lewis says, ‘To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.’
Paul writes, ‘And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity’ (v.14). Love is not just an emotion. It is something we ‘put on’. As we put on our physical clothes so we are to put on love.
This is the beauty of the Christian community – a radical change in our relationships. It is so different from the world around and so attractive.
How is it possible? The battle must be won in our hearts and minds. We must set our hearts and minds in the right place and, as Paul goes on to write, ‘Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace’ (v.15).
God’s peace acts like a referee in our hearts – telling us what is in and what is out. One of the questions we should ask about any decision is ‘do we sense God’s peace about what we’re about to do?’
- Change your attitude to Jesus (vv.16–17)
We need to be constantly guided by ‘the word of Christ’ (v.16). He says, ‘Let the word of Christ – the message – have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God!’ (v.16, MSG).
This kind of community will come from being centred on the worship of God and listening to the word of Christ in the Scriptures. It will be a community of love, ‘sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord’ (v.22).
It will also be one of hard work. Whether we are an employer or an employee we are serving Christ. We need to do our jobs well and with a good attitude in our hearts and minds: ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord … It is the Lord Christ you are serving … you also have a Master in heaven’ (3:23; 4:1).
Lord, thank you for this beautiful picture of the Christian community – a people whose hearts and minds are set in the right direction. Help us each day to win this battle for our hearts and minds. Help us to get rid of the bad stuff and to clothe ourselves with the good stuff. Help us today to live a life of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Help us to forgive as you have forgiven us. May your peace rule in our hearts. May the word of Christ dwell in us richly as a community, in our teaching and in our worship.
3. Change the direction of your heart and mind towards GodJeremiah 14:1-15:21
The book of Jeremiah is a call to repentance that begins with Jeremiah’s own heart. ‘Therefore, this is what the Lord says: “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman’ (15:19). Repentance means changing our hearts and minds and turning back to God.
Jeremiah was God’s spokesperson. He turned his heart and mind to listening to the word of the Lord. This was in stark contrast to the false prophets of the day. ‘These preachers are liars, and they use my name to cover their lies. I never sent them, I never commanded them, and I don’t talk with them. The sermons they’ve been handing out are sheer illusion, tissues of lies, whistlings in the dark’ (14:14, MSG).
On the other hand, Jeremiah’s heart and mind was set on listening to the Lord – ‘This is the word of the Lord to Jeremiah’ (v.1), ‘Then the Lord said to me …’ (15:1). He knew how amazing it was to hear the words of the Lord. ‘When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight’ (v.16). This ultimately is the only thing that will satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts and minds.
Once we have heard the word of the Lord, we need to pass on the life changing message unchanged: ‘Let your words change them. Don’t change your words to suit them’ (15:19, MSG).
Lord, thank you that when we repent and change our minds you restore us so that we may serve you (v.19). Lord, may your words bring joy and delight to our hearts. In the words of an ancient prayer of the church, the Sarum Missal:
God be in my head, And in my understanding;
God be in my eyes, And in my looking;
God be in my mouth, And in my speaking;
God be in my heart, And in my thinking;
God be at my end, And at my departing.
We had this wonderful passage read at our wedding. If we could all live as these verses suggest, it would make for very happy marriages, families, churches...