'Mind and Heart', bronze sculpture by Frank Sh...The point of all this mental exercise I’ve been writing about is to feed the mind with good images, thoughts, and information to develop a mind like Christ. Genuine and consistent Christ-like behavior comes from the mind of the Spirit—God’s thoughts in you.

By that I don’t mean a spiritual lobotomy where your thinking is no longer your own, but where your own thinking is the same as His. From there, you can form intentions that match His will. Destructive images and false information will gradually be replaced with good thoughts, words, and deeds.

A Powerful Link Between Ideas and Feelings

Thoughts create and shape feelings that we subsequently act on. Take the revived uproar in this country over gun control as one example. (For an interesting look at theological implications, you might like this article, Deliver Us from Evil (in a Hail of Bullets).)  The issue has degenerated beyond respectful conversation because people on both sides are ruled by their feelings on the matter.

What they’re acting on is fear. One side holds a deep, abiding fear of losing rights and would gladly give up life to save those rights. The other holds a deep, abiding fear of losing life and would gladly give up rights to save it. Concepts like freedom, safety, and life evoke powerful images and emotions.

Mentally unstable shooters on a killing spree are acting on their own images and information, however warped it all may be. When they can no longer resist the ensuing feelings, they “snap.” (The same goes for “normal” people who suddenly have an affair or embezzle from their bosses.)

So both sides of the debate are deadlocked in contemptuous rants and name-calling spewed at opponents—morons and dumbasses—which is its own kind of murder rather than love or respect for enemies. Normally sane people become verbal hit-men with high-capacity magazines loaded with words, firing indiscriminately at any threat to their respective ideals.

This is what it looks like when people, individually and collectively, are owned by feelings rather than mastering and owning them. Emotions become gods that must be satisfied and served. And the ruined human being that blindly follows feelings is, effectively, a spiritual chump pulled around by the nose. (more…)

Angry Talk (Comic Style)

Few people, even Christians, realize that the secret to well-being is to gradually kill off six universal culprits that sabotage it. Jesus exposes them in his Sermon on the Mount, Unfortunately, however, it has become more and more the Sermon That Doesn’t Count.

When it comes to real life, Jesus has been framed as pretty much clueless, not exactly the modern go-to guy for life-coaching. He’s only good for his blood, his gig on the cross, and a few profound sayings that even Christians pay no attention to. Consequently, it is we who are clueless.

So I thought a series on these sneaky culprits would be helpful since they often come disguised as “right.” The secret to their demise is the Sermon’s sequence. Though we’ve heard it a million times, few people have heard that the order in which Jesus teaches is key. And his first step is to eliminate retained anger and contempt:

You have heard it said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I’m telling you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment also. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Mat. 5:21-22)

When Jesus says “angry with,” that includes everything from little pet peeves all the way up to raging violence. A “brother” is anyone; it’s synonymous with “neighbor” or “others.” And “subject to judgment” refers to human judgment as well as God’s.

Contempt covers a lot of ground, too. “You fool!” is a dangerous mind-set because it includes all forms of ridicule, shame, malice, indignation, and superiority.

The Mechanics of Anger