Someone once said to me, “The problem with Christians is they are all mental!”
As I reflected on his disparaging comment, I realized he had a point. Not the point he was trying to make, implying all Christians suffer from “a psychiatric disorder,” which is the second definition of the word “mental.” My epiphany came to me when I considered his statement in light of the first definition of “mental,” which means “of, or related to, the mind.”
When our approach to God and faith is primarily mental—“of, or related to, the mind”—our Christianity is indeed problematic. For starters, it isn’t Christian.
One of the many lessons I’ve gleaned from the “mindfulness movement” is how identification with the mind is one of the greatest obstacles to authentic connection with others, my true self and God. The mind is an incredibly valuable and useful tool when used appropriately. However, most of us don’t use our minds. Our minds use us.
Whether you are aware of this or not, you probably believe your mind is who you are. Most of the time you assume you’re the “thinker of thoughts in your head.” The reality is, this “thinker of thoughts in your head” is not you, but has taken over—or “possessed”—you. The real you is not in control; your mind is.
If you don’t believe me, try to stop your mind from thinking thoughts in your head. Your mind will not obey. You will quickly see your mind is not under your control. In fact, for most of your life your uncontrollable mind is in control of you!
This is why meditation is so important. Becoming aware of the mind as an unruly tool—not who I am—is an essential step in differentiation from the mind. Why is this important?
When we identify with our minds—the “thinker of thoughts inside our heads”—we cut ourselves off from our deeper and truer identity, namely, Christ. Or, as Paul puts it, “Christ in you.” Paul reminds us how universal this mysterious identity is when he says, “Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:11).
This is deep and complex stuff that would require more than an article to unpack. The point I’m driving at here is that your faith and relationship with God must integrate more than your mind to be genuinely Christian.
Consider the Hebrew Shema (which means “listen” in English). The Shema is the central prayer, confession and command of Judaism and Christianity. It comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “The Lord is our God, the Lord is One. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might.”
Notice that the mind is not included in the Shema.
Interestingly, Jesus adds the word “mind” to his version of the Shema in Matthew 22:37 and Luke 10:27. However, he lists the heart first and the mind last. Coincidence?
Perhaps, but at the very least Jesus is telling us the most important and greatest thing we can do is to love God holistically—with our whole being—including all our heart, soul, body and mind. This means we must align our hearts (emotions, desires, conscience), souls (imagination, intuition, innermost being), might (physical body, energy), and minds (perception, cognition, reason), into a harmonious and balanced state through the act of loving God.
When I elevate, or identify with, mind over heart, soul and body, especially in my faith and relationship with God, I’m neglecting the central and most important teaching in the Bible. When we elevate the role of the mind above the heart, soul and body in our faith, we naturally shift the focus from loving to understanding.
This is not the mind’s fault. Understanding is what the mind is designed to do. However, Jesus commands us to focus on loving God first and foremost, and the only way we can do this is to keep our minds equally “yoked” with our hearts, souls and bodies.
The modern age has advanced the supremacy of the mind. Unfortunately, many western Christians have adopted this supremacy of mind in our approach to God, Scripture and faith. This has resulted in many forms of Christianity that are completely un-Christlike.
What does all this have to do with pursuing wisdom? The pursuit of wisdom must follow the Shema path. It must move us towards greater love of God, and integrate our hearts, souls, bodies and minds equally and harmoniously.