THE HEALING CHRIST Some biblical aspects of the mind.
Although the gospels tell us that Jesus Christ performed large numbers of healing miracles: only a few of them are described in any detail. Those that are described: mostly relate to physical illnesses and disorders: such as leprosy, blindness, paralysis and so on.
The early Church looked at the healing miracles of Jesus; and at his spiritual teachings, and then put the two things together. Theologians, in those days, began to offer something of a doctrine of healing. They said things like this:
‘Just as water, when used in baptism, is a symbol of a spiritual washing, and cleansing from sin: so the healing miracles performed by Christ were, largely, symbols of a needful spiritual healing, a making-well-again of the soul’.
Galatians 5:17. says. ‘The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit: and the Spirit desires what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other’.
From such texts, the Church developed a doctrine, of war between flesh and spirit: a doctrine that placed Christians in a very difficult either/or situation.
Although that doctrine wasn't exactly wrong, it wasn't wholly right: for something in the middle had become overlooked, and forgotten for a while, because of a strong overemphasis, placed on the two extremes.
That 'something' was, and remains, 'mind'. In various ways, the Bible teaches us about the close relation between body, mind and Spirit.
Today, the Church recognizes the importance of mind: and how it can provide balance, as it helps Christians to win through various situations that trouble them; or to oppose evils that rise up against them.
The Church is re-discovering Christ's teachings about healing, and wholeness: with body, mind and spirit working together in harmony. He never claimed to be original in his teaching. He applied existing scriptures, in memorable ways: sometimes adding a word or two, to give extra meaning.
For example, Deuteronomy 6:5. says: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength’. That is the one that Jesus quoted, when a Scribe asked him: ‘Which is the greatest of all the commandments?’
But Christ added another word, 'mind', just to make the meaning perfectly clear. ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength’. (Mark I2:20).
Any serious study of healing, in relation to body, mind and spirit, soon brings us up against that rather shocking word from St. Paul at Romans 8. He said: 'The mind of sinful man is death'. In the whole of his teaching on sin, in the ‘Letter to the Romans’, Paul does not touch on degrees of sin.
No-one can say: ‘The big sins, which Paul spoke against, don't apply to us; and these little sins, which might apply to us, are altogether too small for him to have included in his teaching’.
Paul doesn't allow any nonsense like that; nor does he offer any let-out clauses. He simply says: ‘The mind of sinful man is death’. Obviously, we do not want even to consider that Paul's text could include us; but what can we do, to make sure that the text never applies to us.
One very simple and basic thing; is to look to see which way we are stepping. If, in the terms already used; and in most of the Bible teaching on the subject; 'mind' lies somewhere between the physical and the spiritual; then we have two opposite directions in which to step, and begin to move.
To one side - the flesh: and to the other side - the Spirit.
We cannot radically alter the physical bodies that we were born with: although, with such common-sense things as good diet, exercise and so on; we can make the best of what we have got.
At our re-birth in Christ, God gives us a new spirit. We can receive what he gives, and be thankful; but here, too, there is no way in which we can radically alter what the Lord has provided.
But not so with our 'minds'. That part of us which seems to lie between; and to link; our physicality and our spirituality, is quite capable of being changed; both in its character, and in the direction in which it moves.
Because, in terms of a set of balances, 'mind' stands in the middle: it can move this way, or that way, and tip the balance towards the world; the flesh; and the devil .... or towards God; Christ, and life in the Spirit.
If we agree on that, we must also see that the 'mind' is not without direction and guidance from God: in the matter of which way to step, and to move.
Through the prophet: Jeremiah (3I: 33-34). God said: ‘I will put my laws in their hearts, and write them on their minds’.
According to such texts, God gives us pointers towards life, as he places these things in our hearts; within our deepest and best desires; and in our minds: helping create integrity, good intentions, resolve, and determination.
The Lord gives us the pointers, but leaves us to actually do something about altering our condition, and position, for the better. He gives us purpose and direction, but leaves us to actually follow it.
Because he does not force anything upon us: we are the ones who have to do something about getting ourselves moving in the right direction.
This requires far more than passive assent, to concepts of divine help being given. It demands deliberate, positive and active movement: away from sin and death, and towards God, Christ and the Kingdom.
At 1.Peter 1: 13, we find this word in the N.I.V: ‘Prepare your minds for action. Be self-controlled’. ‘Be self-controlled’ means: 'You (through divine grace) be in charge of yourself. Don't let anyone, or anything, drag you around.
Peter says: ‘Prepare your minds for action’, and some of Paul’s teachings spell out what such action should bring about, in our lives. ‘Put off your old nature (something that we do) and be renewed in your minds’, says Ephesians 4.
'Be transformed by the renewal of your mind’, says Romans I2: 2. From these and similar texts, we can begin to see the importance that God's Word attaches to the 'mind', and its power to choose, and to effect good, or ill.
A French philosopher (Descartes) said: 'I think: therefore I am'. Much earlier: Jesus had spoken along similar lines. Two of his statements (Mark 7: 20 and Luke 6: 43-45) could be interpreted as ‘What a man thinks; he becomes’.
The mind is very powerful, and the activity of our sub-conscious minds can produce quite radical change in us, for good or for ill.
In the last century or so, we have rediscovered what we have come to call psychosomatic medicine: where the mind affects the body; and can do so, in such a way as to make it either quite ill, or else considerably better.
We might feel that there is little or nothing that we can do in such matters; for where a particular situation is directed by the sub-conscious mind, it lies beyond our control.
However, psychologists and psychiatrists tell us that positive and healthy conscious thinking: can do a great deal towards producing positive and healthy reactions at the sub-conscious level.
Such specialists try to encourage a positive change of attitudes and thinking, at a conscious level; in the hope that healing and wholeness may be promoted at a far deeper level: a level that is kin to life itself.
In attempting this, they approach a truth that Christ taught long before.
If we truly want that healing; and the kin-to-life-itself wholeness, to which the Healing Christ calls us; then we will have to take heed of that other part of God's word, given through Paul.
He said: 'The mind of sinful man is death ... but … the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace’.
It is to be noted that Paul did not write: ‘…the mind influenced by the Holy Spirit…’; but ‘the mind controlled by the Holy Spirit…’, with the strong inference that we cannot begin to move into that wholeness which brings life and peace, until we have handed our minds over to God.
'Handing over our minds’ is not easy to do; for, from childhood, many of us acquired the understanding that only good and acceptable things may be offered to God, whereas our minds contain much that is neither thing.
Such understanding will not bring about healing and wholeness. Although we may not be great sinners in any 'Seven Deadly Sins' sense: misplaced fears; anxieties; bad thoughts; vanities, jealousies and so on, that remain lodged in our minds; affect our bodies and our spirits in adverse ways.
Indeed, as Paul warns, if nothing is done about that sinful thinking, and it is allowed to go on affecting both flesh, and spirit; the end of it all is death.
On the other hand - God be praised! - those who hand these sinful, and sickly things of the mind, to Christ; for his loving attention; will find themselves caught up in an on-going process of healing, that leads to wholeness of life, and to peace.
Christ taught that this needs to be done; if we are to live within the Kingdom: and he promises that he will begin to effect the necessary healing for us; and within us, as soon as we allow him to do so.
St. Paul prayed for the Christians at Thessalonica; and for us; when he wrote: ‘May the God of peace, himself, sanctify you, wholly ...
…and may your spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless, at the coming of our Lord Jesus’.
God promises to begin to answer that prayer, when we allow him to do so, through handing over our minds to the Holy Spirit for help and control.
When that is done, says Paul, at Philippians 4., ‘The peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus’, in whom the wholeness of God is found. Amen.