A person’s usual attitude or mental state is his or her mindset. If you have an environmentalist mindset, you will probably bring your own bags to the grocery store. Other examples of mindsets include an optimist’s rosy perspective on life, a business owner’s entrepreneurial way of thinking, or an Army general’s military prowess. Sometimes, a mindset is shared between people in a group and influences the entire group’s outlook — psychologists call this groupthink. What then is the Christian mindset?
St. Paul told the Philippians: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death– even death on a cross!” (Phil 2:5-8) What do the verses tell us about the mindset of Christ that Paul encourages the Christians in Philippi to have?
The Christian church always believes and proclaims that Jesus Christ is the centre of all things. “He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:2-3) “For in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities – all things were created through him and for him”. (Colossians 1:15-18) Scripture also tells us that Christ who is at the centre of all things is always moving towards the periphery. He chose to associate with tax-collectors, prostitutes and gentiles (cf. Mark 2:13-17; Luke 19:1-10; John 4:1-42; 8:3-11).
The whole life of Jesus is a movement towards the periphery and finally, on the cross, he stops. He cannot move any further. He is nailed to it. This is the point of ultimate periphery. Jesus Christ lived as a periphery man. It was at the periphery that he established his identity and centre. His identity was his cross, his exaltation was his humiliation. He was the Lord because he was the crucified one. His centre was the periphery and he became central because he gave up the centre.
It was the self-emptying of Christ that drew others to him. Jesus emptied his life entirely that he became the transparent medium in which God dwells and through which people can see God. Philip once asked Jesus, ‘Show us the Father’. Jesus answered: ‘He who has seen me has seen the Father’. (John 14:8-9)
St. Paul exhorts the Christians in Philippi to have the mindset of Christ. The real human problem is ‘self-centredness’ – selfishness, self-justification and self-glorification. The elimination of ‘self’ from the centre and letting God come into the centre of our life is to have the mindset of Christ.
Christian spirituality is the growth in transparency of our life. There is nothing hidden, nothing dishonest, nothing opaque and there is no cover up in Christian spirituality. Everything about our life should be transparent. It is only as we move to the periphery, forgetting our self interest, for the love of those in the periphery that we grow in this transparency. As Christ has manifested God in the world by his ‘self-emptying’ we become the medium of God’s divine life as we grow in selfless love for others (cf. John 12:24-26). Christian spirituality is the experience of being liberated from self-love.
Let the hymn “Unless A Grain Of Wheat” remind us what it means to die to ourselves and become entirely receptive to God’s divine will: