There is war in Yemen, a polar vortex in Canada and a measles outbreak in the Philippines. The USA is experiencing the longest shutdown in its history over the construction of a wall. Venezuela is experiencing a ‘slow motion catastrophe’, and energy prices are rising for millions. And one more word: Brexit. Is this reality?
Partial, at best. Media tends to distort reality, drawing out and broadcasting the fear-worthy in a way that mutes the normal and provokes continual concern. More surreptitiously, media forms a lens through which we know the world.
Etymologically, the word media, or medium in its singular form, denotes something intermediate, literally ‘middle’. Media acts as an intermediary to inform an understanding of reality. However, even the best and most accurate journalism cannot be that which frames our thinking, for it will always be incomplete and most often lacking witness to the Word made flesh (Christ among us). Thinking biblically about public life begins with framing reality according to the word of God. Moreover, truly thinking biblically cultivates an internal reality that reverses the flow of fear and insecurity governing a fallen world. Biblical thinking not only offers practical wisdom for governance, economic systems, human relationships and even agriculture, but it forms a lens through which we can process life and the world around us.
As impressionable creatures, we are influenced – formed and re-formed – by that which we are passively or actively exposed to. Romans 12:2 speaks of this tension between being conformed and being transformed, the first to the pattern of the world around us, the latter to the image of Christ. The womb of change is
our mind, the instrument of transformation is our thinking.
While the manifestations of struggle and discord in the world ebb and flow, its substance, and therefore the spiritual dichotomy we inhabit, remains constant. The following instructions in Philippians 4 offer a key that is as relevant to the early church as to followers of Christ in 2019:
‘Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ,’ (Phil. 4:6-7 NKJV).
We are then instructed to meditate on that which is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy.
The Greek origin of the word ‘meditate’ is the verb logizomai, and it means to deeply consider, take into account, compute and calculate, as having force and weight. Paul is exhorting us to frame our understanding according to that which is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, of virtue and praiseworthy.
While these instructions in scripture are simple, they are not easy. Rather, they call us to think not according to the pressing realities of the world around us which we can touch, feel, and see—both those constructed in our understanding through the media and those which we know intimately and first-hand. Instead, we are to ‘seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God,’ and to ‘set our minds on things above, not on things on earth’ (Col. 3:1-2). This does not imply that we are to be ignorant, detached from, or unaware of what is happening in the world around us. Rather, it implies that truly being salt and light in the world begins with cultivating a perspective aligned with the heavenly realm, and exchanging the anxieties of life for a life of prayer.
When we do this, the architecture of our internal world is slowly transformed. We have been given the divine privilege and exhortation of being like-minded with Christ Jesus, (Phil. 2:5). The chapter goes on to describe the life of Christ and to exhort His followers to work this out daily because ‘it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure’ (2:13). Paul then goes on to describe the corporate effect of lives conformed to Christ, ‘that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the middle of a crooked and perverse generation, shining among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life’ (2:14).
Thinking creates the internal reality that shapes our actions and our presence in the world. Responsibility in this case dictates that we not passively allow the chaos and news of chaos that roams the world at large to dwell within us. Instead, we cultivate the rich indwelling presence and word of God in our inner world, out of which we bear witness to Him amidst chaos, exuding and inviting others into the unshakeable kingdom within when all around us is falling apart.