Saint Paul exhorts us to “have the mind of Christ.” He knows that if we think as Jesus thinks we shall be living in charity, and he will be living in us. It must follow that our works, values, decisions, and prayers will carry the seal of his spirit. There are three things which characterize a Christian, says Saint Gregory of Nyssa in his Christian Perfection, namely action, speech, thought. The origin of every word is thought. After thinking comes speech, which reveals in words the idea which has been conceived in the mind. After thought and speech comes action, which realizes the thoughts in deeds. Later in the same treatise Saint Gregory elaborates as follows:
That which is pure of every inclination to passion tends toward the source of tranquility, Christ. If a man draws from Christ his thoughts he will reveal in himself a likeness to his pattern; purity has only one nature, both that which is in Christ and that which is in the one who shares in him: the one who shares in him draws from him and brings beauty of thought to his life so there is a harmony when uprightness of life is joined with thoughts which are inspired by Christ.
The ability to think in Christ is not just a knack of the mind, a habit acquired by the belief that it is the most sensible way to go about things: it is a gift, a grace. Even in the human relationship between friends it would be impossible for both to think alike – on any subject, let alone on all subjects – unless the one had imparted his thought to the other. Jesus gives us his thinking provided we pray for it and are serious in trying to shape our lives according to his teaching. It is as a consequence of our prayer life that we hold up to his judgment the circumstances which face us, and it is on the findings of this submission that we come to judge as he judges, to think as he thinks.
Not only are we confronted every day with situations involving personal behavior, but we are expected to have an opinion on the larger issues as well. Obviously, when called upon to give advice to an individual as to how he should act in a spiritual or moral contingency, we should ask for the light to handle it. Less obviously we should pray for light when challenged by the prevailing thought on secular matters. How do we view social, political, economic, nationalistic questions? Are our minds conditioned by the press or by the gospel? Do we defer to this or that leader’s practical judgment, or do we direct the doubt to Jesus for enlightenment? What does Jesus at this moment think of equal rights of women, of hunger strikes, of capital punishment, of the right to refuse “extraordinary” means to prolong life? Have I ever referred these things in prayer to him? If not I can hardly claim to be fostering his thought in me and to be sharing his mind.
In your light, proclaims the psalmist, we shall see light, and only in his light. He is the light of the world, and if this light burns within us, we are lamps which shine to others in a darkened world. We are not our own light; we are light reflected from him whose light and life we share. As such we bring the thought of Jesus to those who think wrongly or who do not think at all.