As I have been reading and preaching on Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonica, I am convinced that I spend too much of my life thinking and reacting horizontally. I think of life, typically, on an earthly plane – relationally, scientifically and physically. I concern myself with what other people are thinking (about me and about the culture); I comprehend my environment scientifically (making plans based on weather and economics); I evaluate well-being physically (medically, financially and psychologically). I spend too much energy on the things of this world and too little energy on the things of Heaven.
It is easy to get trapped into horizontal thinking. We see what is in front of us and we draw conclusions based on what we see: we witness several marital breakdowns and conclude that matrimony is an out-dated paradigm; we experience a drop in attendance and assume that programs need revamping; we hear the forecast for a foot of snow and our frustrations over missed opportunities increase; we have a modicum of success and immediately assume we did something amazing. Human nature is content to profile – we are all guilty of jumping to conclusions about ‘drooping drawers’, ‘those who wear glasses’, the ‘homeless’, the ‘cultural elite’, etc. – and is uncomfortable with things beyond our comprehension.
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. Colossians 3:2 (NIV)
Paul, while writing to the church in Colossae, encouraged believers to “calibrate” their thinking to heavenly standards and not earthly ones. Before I continue, let me state that I am not contending that Paul is advocating a dichotomy of mind-set (that there is purely heavenly thinking and purely earthly thinking and never the twain shall meet) but rather he advocated that the fullness of our thinking ought to derive from the mind of Christ (in much the same way the Lord’s prayer advocates seeking God’s will to be done on earth as it is done in heaven). What Paul is encouraging us to do is think the way God created us to think about all things.
Thinking God’s thoughts would enable us to see everyone as a uniquely equipped and uniquely loved contributor in God’s kingdom. It would allow us to see all circumstances as opportunities to express His glorious love and amazing grace to all those in need. It would bring us to where we see every function of life no longer as a random confluence of disjointed happenings and more accurately as the deliberate and purposeful out-workings of the master’s master plan. It would equip us to realize that Satan is deviously and dangerously devising designs for our destruction but that the guidance gained through God’s grace and goodness will guarantee our growth. Our thinking is intended to be first vertical.
In the weeks ahead our church will be having its annual business meeting and we covet all the prayers that the Church can muster. We want to think vertically – for ourselves, our families, our church, our community, our culture and our world. We want to set our minds on things above…after all, those are the things that truly matter.