When I took a human anatomy course during my junior year in high school, our class learned to identify the left and right hemispheres, the synapses, the cerebral cortex, and the meninges.
Most of the time we were identifying these parts from diagrams and charts in our textbook. Later, our instructor borrowed a full-scale model of the human brain from the local university and brought it to class for our inspection. It was fascinating. It was educational. But to be honest, the brain was ugly. There is absolutely nothing beautiful about a brain.
But a brain and a mind are not the same thing. Just like money and wealth are not the same, just like religion and faith are not the same, just like sex and love are not the same, and just like knowledge and wisdom are not the same, a brain and a mind are not the same.
What is a mind? Mind is mostly a noun, although we use it appropriately as a verb, such as “mind your parents,” “mind your manners” or “mind your business.”
The brain is the control center of our central nervous system. The mind is the control center of our values and priorities, our actions and reactions, our discretion and our discernment. The mind is the crossroads where the spirit intersects with the physical body.
The Bible says a lot about the mind. “The sinful mind is hostile to God”(Rom 8:7). “Love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind”(Mt 22:37). “Be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may do the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God”(Rom 12:1-2). “…The believers were in one heart and mind”(Acts 4:32).
The mind has negative potential. Sin is born in the mind. Greed, jealousy, slander, dishonesty and dishonor are all born in the mind. Jesus seemed to use heart and mind synonymously. He said things like, “If a man lusts in his heart, he has also committed adultery.” (By the way, that also means that if a woman lusts in her heart …)
The mind also has positive potential. You can “love the Lord with your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” Your mind is where you process important faith decisions. Your mind is where you sort out the will of God. Your mind is where you become consciously convicted of your sin. Your mind is where you become convinced of God’s forgiveness.
There is much to learn from the mind of Christ. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5).
What kind of mind did Jesus have? The mind of Christ is characterized by love—a genuine, self-sacrificing, lay-down-your-life kind of love. The mind of Christ is characterized by compassion— specifically a kind of tenderness that is the opposite of cold, bitter and unfeeling. The mind of Christ is characterized by humility—a spirit devoid of self-degradation, arrogance, conceit or condescension.
Recently, a popular movie entitled “A Beautiful Mind” portrayed the true story of John Forbes Nash Jr., a young man in 1950 whose formulae established the mathematical principles of the “game theory” of economics. Nash eventually won the Nobel Prize 40 years later.
By the age of 30, however, Nash was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. The movie focuses on the remarkable path his life took from success to mental illness to recovery.
Human minds are complex and resilient, but the mind of Christ is the most fascinating, most appealing, and most beautiful of all minds—a model from which all other minds can learn.
Barry Howard is senior minister of First Baptist Church in Corbin, Ky.
Pastor at the Wieuca Road Baptist Church in Atlanta. He also serves as a leadership coach and columnist for the Center for Healthy Churches. He and his wife, Amanda, live in Brookhaven, Georgia.