Wednesday, May 11, 2022
Years ago I rode motorcycle. One morning as I rode to the office, I noticed a difference in my attitude towards other drivers. When I’m in my car, I’m fairly arrogant about my rights and my skills. I look ahead and know what’s happening several cars in front of me, and I’m usually prepared for any emergency. Unfortunately, I tend to think poorly about other drivers who obviously are not really paying attention. I’m embarrassed by those prideful thoughts, but I’m even more ashamed of the actions that follow those thoughts.
For example, when I’m in my car, and I’m on a four lane road that will soon become only two lanes, I know which lane is the one that ends and which lane has the right of way to proceed. (By the way, the sign tells you which lane that is.) I plan ahead and make sure I’m in the correct lane well before the point of change. You know what’s coming next, don’t you? Suddenly, there’s a person coming up beside me as I approach the point where the lanes merge. One of us has to slow down and let the other one go ahead. Since I’m in the correct lane that is not ending, I refuse to slow down. If they hit me, it will be their fault. I’m not proud of that attitude.
The mind that is controlled by the flesh is a dangerous thing. It convinces us that being right is more important than even personal safety. Something has to happen to our minds so they are controlled by something other than our pride and personal ambitions to get ahead. That something for me is the reality of my vulnerability on the motorcycle. As I was riding home one day, the same thing I just described happened to me. I had to make a choice. I could hold to my rights or I could back off and let the other person proceed. I chose the latter. I had a different perspective of the situation because I was on a motorcycle that would not only lose any conflict with a car, but would cause me to be seriously injured. With that in mind, I made a different choice. It’s the choice I need to make all the time, no matter what I’m driving.
I remember some words of Scripture that I have not applied very well in the daily activity of driving – “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought…Be kind and compassionate to others…Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Before I get too diverted from the original point I wanted to make, let me get to it – whatever we have in our mind will determine our actions. Whatever we choose to focus on in our thinking will become the primary motivation for our choices. When the thought of my rights is foremost in my mind, I make a different choice than when the thought of my safety is on my mind. When thoughts of the needs of others is on my mind, I will choose differently than when thoughts of my needs are on my mind.
So when Paul tells us to take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and use it as the basis for our prayer life, he then says those all important words, “with this in mind.” He is reminding us that something new has become the priority of our thinking and that it will result in different behavior. As our minds are renewed, so that the flesh has less and less influence and the Spirit of God has more and more control, we are to be alert to what’s going on around us. We are to see the other person approaching in the rear-view mirror, and then respond in such a way that confirms the presence of God in our lives. We are to respond to one another’s needs and issues with prayers of all kinds based on the promises of God.
Paul says it this way in his second letter to the church at Corinth, as paraphrased by Eugene Peterson in The Message. “God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.”
Keep that in mind!