“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Col. 3:1-3
My first two years of college were spent at a small Christian school in Georgia. I have a vivid memory of driving across town and having a discussion with at least two others about Christians and divorce. I don’t remember who said this, but it has always stuck with me. He said, “My mom once told me that when she gets angry with my dad she focuses on what she loves about him, even if – at that moment – the only thing she loves about him is the way he ties his shoes.” This woman, had spent her marriage training her mind to love her husband.
I wish I could that this anecdote stuck with me in such a way that I have spent the last 14 years training my mind to love my husband, but that isn’t the case. Instead, when I am angry I tear him down in my mind and list everything that frustrates me. I can tell you from experience, nothing good comes from this practice.
Another thing that gets in the way of training my mind to love my husband are my emotions. People often talk about how women are much more emotional than men and how they are led by their emotions rather than their minds. When I hear these things I’m slightly offended. I like to think of myself as an intellectual. And in some areas of life, I am. However, I also know that I am very emotional and sometimes irrational. There are have been times where I have accused Aaron, “You don’t love me.” And he would respond, “That’s a lie.” Or I might say, “I don’t feel like you love me.” And he might respond, “Well, your feelings are wrong.” I’m sure you can imagine how frustrated his responses have made me. However, his responses were true. My feelings and my thoughts were wrong and they needed to be reigned in by my mind.
God gave us our minds to learn about Him and to worship Him. Before we get to Colossians 3, Paul tells the Colossians that he prays for them asking that they be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding (1:9) and that they will increase in their knowledge of God (1:10). He points out that before they were reconciled to Christ, they were hostile in mind (1:21). Paul explains that he became a minister so the word of God would be fully known (1:25). Paul’s desire is that they would reach a full understanding and knowledge of Christ in whom are hidden all the treasure of wisdom and knowledge (2:2-3). He warns them NOT to be deluded with plausible arguments (2:4) nor be taken captive by philosophy and empty deceit according to human tradition and the world (2:8). He warns that anyone trying to disqualify them in regards to the ceremonial law is puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind (2:18) And finally that while regulations (read legalism) may have the appearance of wisdom they, in fact, have no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh (2:23).
It is with this backdrop that we come to chapter three verses one and two. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” This word “seek” is an action word. Instead you could say, “keep seeking” “continually seek” or “don’t stop seeking” the things that are above. And then verse two tells us to set our minds on the things above.
We should be fixated on, oriented towards the things above. I was thinking about this idea of setting my mind or fixing my mind to something in terms of driving. When I’m driving down the road, where should my attention be? On. The. Road. If I turn around and start rummaging for something in the back seat or type an text on my phone while driving what’s going to happen? Nothing good! But when I drive I keep my eyes on the road. I may glance at the person in the passenger seat, turn on the radio, or look in the rear view mirror but my attention is being continually refocused on the road. At the same time, just because I’m driving doesn’t mean I can’t do anything else. I could listen to music. But the fact that I’m driving and focused on the road might change what type of music I listen to. I might not choose a slow, soft, melodic song that soothes me to sleep. Just like remaining focused on the road affects my behavior and choices while I’m driving so should setting my mind on the things above. And just like I continually refocus my attention to the road, I need to be continually refocusing my mind on the things above.
So, then the question becomes what are the things above? I believe verse 1 answers that question, “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” Our Lord and Savior is above seated at the right hand of God the Father. So, how do we focus on the things above? For that let’s skip down to verse 16 which says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
So, how do we set our minds on the things above? There were four ways listed in verse 16. The first is to let the word of God dwell in us. How do we do that? We read it. We memorize it. We study it. We listen to it. Doing those things will lead to us meditating on it.
Have you ever watched a tv show or read a news article and found yourself thinking about it the next day? In a sense you’re meditating on the show or article, you’re reflecting on it, thinking about it, processing it. I find that the more I am in the word or reading good books and articles or listening to talks/podcasts/sermons the more my mind thinks on godly things. I recall what I read or heard and process it again. I talk about it. I share it.
The second way to set your mind on the things above is to teach and admonish one another in all wisdom. When you teach someone, you first have to learn something and learn it even more deeply and thoroughly. One definition of admonish is to advise or urge someone earnestly. (Kind of like I’m doing right now, about setting your minds on the things above.) Regardless of whether you are teaching or advising, it forces your mind to think and learn about what you are going to talk about! And lest we do so in our own folly, the verse says to teach and admonish in all wisdom. Where can wisdom be found? In the Bible. Again, focusing on the Bible so you can teach or admonish others, helps you to set your mind on the things above.
The third way to seek the things above is by singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. If I said “shake it off” I venture to guess that the majority, if not all, of you heard Taylor Swift in your mind, and if you’re like me you started dancing a little. Music sticks in our minds and hearts. Songs get stuck in our heads. What’s better to be stuck in your head, “Shake it Off” Or “Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe.”? While I am currently in a stage of life where I value and prefer silence, I have to admit that music simply lifts my spirits! I have a Spotify playlist of my favorite worship songs that I’ve picked up throughout the years and occasionally I’ll turn it on while I clean. And every time I do I think to myself, “Why don’t I turn on music more often.” It soothes my soul. It reminds me of the promises of God and the great things Christ has done for my life! I worship God for how great he is and the way he has turned a wretch like me into a righteous saint. Music is a gift God!
Finally, we set our minds on the things above with thankfulness in our hearts to God. Complaining and thankfulness are mutually exclusive. They are opposites. You can’t complain and be thankful at the same time. Aaron is one of the most thankful people I know. For example, I start to complain about having to take the van into get an oil change and he’ll immediately correct my attitude. “Stacie! Why are you complaining about this? Be thankful that you have a van that needs an oil change and money to get it done. That van has kept us safe and driven us across the country and back. We have amazing memories in that van. Be thankful that God has blessed us with such an amazing vehicle!” Again, while in the moment this can annoy me (I just want to complain about my routine being interrupted by an oil change.) he is right in pointing out to me the ways God has blessed us. He is helping me to train my mind and heart to be thankful.
Now, you may be thinking what does any of this have to do with marriage?! I’m going to jump backwards now to verse 12. I believe that setting our minds on the things above will consequently help us to put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience as Paul is urging us to do. It will help us to bear with one another and forgive each other. It will help us to put on love so that we may be bound together in perfect harmony.
Remember this was written for the church. When we see the one another’s in scriptures (and there’s a lot of them) it is especially speaking of our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Well, who is your closest brother? Your husband! We are to have unity in the church, yes, but even more so as husband and wife! We are not two people but we are one flesh.
So, imagine your marriage, if both of you had your minds focused on Christ and so your lives reflected compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness and love, then do you think it would be difficult for you to submit to him, as we are commanded in verse 18? Or would your husband would have hard time loving you and being gentle toward you as he is commanded in verse 19? I humbly submit to you that it would not be. The more my husband grows in Christ the better he treats me and the easier it is to submit to him. The more I grow the easier it is for him to be sweet to me and love me.
Now, I know there may be husbands that are not setting their minds on Christ, but let me encourage you to do so all the more. 1 Peter 3 encourages us by saying that husbands can won without a word by the conduct of their wives. So win your husband by setting your mind on Christ and allowing the spirit to sanctify you.
If we set our minds on the things of Christ, it will be easy to train our minds to love our husbands. It will be easy to forgive them, it will be easy to admit our own wrongdoing. So the next time you and your husband get into an argument, train your mind to love your husband. Stop tearing him down and begin to thank God for him and list everything you love about him and I bet the marriage will be the better for it.