Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
-Paul (Colossians 3:2)
In the sport of volleyball, when you “set” the ball, you use your fingers to spring it above the net in the perfect position for a spike. A good set is all about placement so that the best outcome can occur. The set is not the end goal- the end goal is moving the ball across the net and scoring… but this is how you make that happen.
Where you set things affect how well you’ll do.
The apostle Paul had never heard of volleyball. But he certainly understood something about placing things at the right spot. And he understood that for disciples of Jesus to do well in the world— to be transformed into the character of Jesus and extend the good news of Jesus in the most effective ways— the mind had to be set correctly.
So he challenges Christians in the town of Colossae to “set your minds on things above.” Sometimes translators use the phrase “heavenly things.”
Well goodness, that sounds high and holy, doesn’t it? We might even be tempted to think that the perfect Christian's mindset is completely unaware of the real world around her, because she is so caught up in the "heavenly mindset.” I believe those are the people who we frequently say need to “get their heads out of the clouds.”
What if we are missing the point a bit? Both Genesis and Revelation point to the goal where Heaven and Earth meet. And in Jesus, we find the things of heaven are actually pretty earthy. They’re not disconnected from reality, yet they taste a bit like heaven. They are about selfless love, active grace, and complete peace in being united with God. Jesus shows that the “things of heaven” are about servanthood and kind words and forgiveness. The things of heaven are dignity for the broken hearted and healing for the suffering. Heavenly things look like a name and story and value given to every human being.
When we get this right, heavenly thinking becomes much less cloudy than we may have previously thought…
But setting our minds in the right spot for Jesus to work in us is hard these days. And I’m not convinced it’s because of our huge sins and massive selfishness (though those certainly play a role). For the typical Jesus follower, though, it’s about something far less obvious.
We’re just distracted.
In volleyball terms, we’re not looking for the ball, so we miss the set.
Andrew Sullivan writes that the the greatest threat to faith today "is not hedonism, but distraction.” The barrage of technology, news, noise, and connectivity creates a concoction that can leave us stumbling about as we flip from one thing to another. We are spinning, and our minds are never set on much of anything.
The antidote? Well, it’s probably not going to be more volume and moving lights during Sunday worship. Beating bad distractions with good distractions doesn’t really accomplish the end goal.
It’s going to be about getting uncomfortable with silence and stillness with God. And that will take radical intentionality. Fifteen years ago our digital age required us to sit down at a desk if we wanted to to plunge into the rabbit hole of the interwebs. Now we bring the rabbit hole with us wherever we go.
Technology is not evil, but it’s certainly not neutral.
Sometime I wonder if we realize that God gives us permission to just turn things off so that we can set our minds on God’s heart.
You’ve got permission. Use it. Take some moments to place your mind in the right spot. Leave your phone behind. It's ok.
What’s one way that you will open up space today so that your mind can sit still and listen for God? What’s one way you can help make space for someone you love to do the same?
Jesus, set my mind on your beauty today, so that it might change me and change our world.