Paul makes a remarkable statement about how he lived life when he said, “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Think about the picture he paints with this metaphor: taking captive – bringing into submission every thought to make those thoughts obedient to Christ.
What does it mean to make our thoughts obedient to Christ? The implication is that our thoughts can be disobedient to Christ or obedient to Christ! We often think about actions or behaviors that are disobedient or obedient to Christ. But the source of either disobedience or obedience lies first and fundamentally in how we think and whether our thinking is in sync with Christ.
Taking every thought captive is really about intentionally seeking to align our thinking with how God thinks. It is understanding His concerns and making them our concerns, grasping His priorities and making them our priorities, seeking always to understand how Christ would view the issues we are facing or thinking and aligning our thinking with His.
I have often taught in various countries and cultures and received the response when talking about ethical issues that Scriptures speak to, “but this is how we do it in our country” even when their practices are in direct violation of Biblical teaching. My standard response is “there is a way of doing it in your country and a way of doing it in my country but there is also a way of doing it in God’s Kingdom and that is our central concern because we are members of His kingdom.” I say that knowing that for every one of us there are areas where we find it desperately hard to bring our thinking into alignment with Christ’s because we know that in doing so there is a cost to our autonomy! And sometimes it is very inconvenient.
One of the reasons that people of deep influence immerse themselves in Scripture is that they understand that it is the key to understanding the heart of God and the mind of God so that they can align their thinking with God’s thinking. As Paul said in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
As I write this, our nation is in a political battle over immigration reform with loud and obnoxious voices on all sides. It would be easy to simply take a side, depending on one’s political orientation. But there is a deeper question: What does God have to say about how we treat the widow and orphan or the alien in our midst? In other words, does God have anything to say in the din of opinions, fear and agendas? A reading of the Old Testament would suggest that God does have something to say and I am more concerned that I take into account His concerns than I am of the concerns of my particular political party.
Those who are committed to bringing their thoughts into alignment with God’s values and concerns are always asking themselves, “what does God have to say about this issue? They do not simply accept uncritically the thinking of those around them or the prevailing wisdom of their culture. There is a way of viewing issues in our culture but we are people of God’s kingdom and the two are not the same.
The transformation of our minds and thinking takes place as we evaluate our thinking against God’s Word and examine closely the life of Jesus and His teaching in the Gospels to discern how He thinks. And then it is bringing alignment to our own thinking so that it aligns with His thinking. In the process our minds are literally renewed through the truth and light of God and the result is that we are “able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).
Transformation of our minds only takes place with a deep desire on our part to think like Christ and an intentionality to understand His thinking and align my thinking so that it matches His. This requires more than a surface reading of Scripture. It takes a thoughtful approach to His truth, and a willingness to take our thinking captive, in Paul’s terminology and make it obedient to the thinking of Jesus.