Confession 424: Why Christians Need to Stop Thinking Like Everyone Else

Jesus began telling his disciples what would happen to him. He said, “The nation’s leaders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law of Moses will make the Son of Man suffer terribly. He will be rejected and killed, but three days later he will rise to life.” Then Jesus explained clearly what he meant.

Peter took Jesus aside and told him to stop talking like that. But when Jesus turned and saw the disciples, he corrected Peter. He said to him, “Satan, get away from me! You are thinking like everyone else and not like God.” Mark 8:31-33 (CEV)

Walking direction on asphalt

“Can I get a Lego Advent calendar?” my nine year old asked as I was getting my coffee ready in the kitchen. It wasn’t even Halloween yet, but he was already working on a Christmas list. I have to be honest, I kind of lost it.

“Absolutely, not!” I exploded. “Advent is a time to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ. That calendar has nothing to do with Jesus, it’s just a countdown to Santa Claus!” And thus commenced the first “Christmas is Not Your Birthday” lecture of the 2017 holiday season. My boys know it by heart. They often finish it for me, albeit in bored tones with eyes rolled to the ceiling. The truth is, even though we know that Christmas is supposed to be a celebration of God, it’s easy to get caught up in the commercial trappings of the season. At Christmas, we often think like everyone else and not like God.

This tendency for humans to think like humans and not like God is something that has plagued us from the beginning of time. We tend to think that more is better. We value commercial success, popularity, strength, power, and self-righteousness. And yet, Jesus tells his disciples time and time again that kind of thinking is totally irrelevant to the work of God.

Case in point: the book of Mark records two miraculous feedings of thousands of people. In both instances, the disciples are completely flummoxed when Jesus suggests they feed the multitudes. And yet, both times, the disciples witness the miraculous ability of Jesus to feed the hungry. Immediately following the second feeding, the disciples get into a discussion of bread. Namely, they’re worried about the lack of it. When Jesus tells the disciples to beware the yeast of the Pharisees, the disciples mistakenly think Jesus is chastising them for forgetting bread. Look at Jesus’ response:

“Why are you talking about not having any bread? Don’t you understand? Are your minds still closed? Are your eyes blind and your ears deaf?” Mark 8:17-18 (CEV)

Obviously, the disciples are not thinking about the things Jesus is thinking about. This is further clarified later on, as Jesus openly discusses his path of suffering and death. Peter, who just before identified Jesus as the Messiah, now scolds Jesus for speaking in such a defeatist manner. Peter is seeking an earthly king. He sees Jesus as a major political power player, not a suffering servant. And how does Jesus respond to Peter?

He said to him, “Satan, get away from me! You are thinking like everyone else and not like God.”

You are thinking like everyone else and not like God…

How many times in our churches do we think like everyone else and not like God? How many times do we focus on those things that are only important in the human sphere–the polity, politics, and traditions of the church? We argue among ourselves about the proper way to “do” worship, rather than actually worshipping God with our whole heart, soul, and mind. We put parameters on our giving instead of generously opening our hands to all those in need. Sometimes, we even go so far as to decide who’s in and who’s out when it comes to God’s great love of all his children.

Feet standing on fallen autumn leaves

You are thinking like everyone else and not like God…

Thinking like God requires us to completely change our mindset. We can’t think like the rest of the world. Rather, we have to think like Jesus. I know what you’re thinking–human’s can’t think like Jesus. And that’s right, but also wrong. You see, Jesus left us an example to follow. He was very clear in both word and deed about his expectations for his followers. The religious leaders tried to engage Jesus in church politics, but time and again he made it clear that the kingdom of God is not about politics or policy. Rather, the kingdom of God is about faith, love, and redemption. Jesus broke cultural barriers and completely ignored time honored religious and social traditions when he ate with sinners, healed the sick, and touched the unclean. Jesus’ words and actions defied convention, tradition, politics, and social mores. So why do we, as his followers, continue to harp on those things?

You are thinking like everyone else and not like God…

If we truly want to be Jesus followers, then we have to stop missing the point of his message. Jesus offers love. Jesus offers salvation. Jesus offers redemption. Therefore, we have to stop thinking that we’re right and everyone else is wrong. We have to stop building walls around his love, spewing condemnation and judgement. We have to stop focusing on the aesthetic instead of the spiritual. We have to stop thinking like everyone else and start thinking like God.

This week, I’d like to challenge each of us to examine our thoughts. Are we thinking like everyone else? Are we passing judgement? Are we placing barriers around God’s love? Are we focused on the traditions of the church instead of the message of Jesus? Let’s take some time this week to identify one area where we can start thinking less like everyone else and more like God. Then, let’s put those God-like thoughts into action so we can work to build his great and glorious kingdom.

Blessings and Peace,