In a men’s group recently, this question was asked: “What is a sound mind?” This question comes from Paul’s letter to Timothy (2 Timothy 1:7). I don’t know why, but I cannot shake this question. Maybe this is because the books I’ve read recently have posed a similar question, albeit in different words. Christians, through the power of the Holy Spirit, are continually given love and a sound mind as God’s good gift. So, what is a sound mind?
In short, a “sound mind” is a mind that sees reality as it really is, as God sees reality, not a mind that sees Satan’s deceptions as true.
Reality is brutal. We are lied to constantly. Culture tells us man is merely an animal, morality is mere opinion, self-fulfillment the only god, and hope a waste of time. Almost unceasingly, culture feeds us a destructive image of what James Smith calls “the good life.” Our “good life” comes through ease and enjoyment, accumulation of wealth, and prosperity. Yet, each of these things are difficult to define with any degree of clarity. What is “wealth” and is “ease” really attainable? Aren’t these terms (along with the others) relative? Will you ever have enough material wealth? Will life ever be easy?
No. Yes (culturally speaking). No. No. Not a fun set of answers, right? But the reason we will never have enough, or ever experience “ease” is because we are fundamentally broken. In Kallistos Ware’s Orthodox Way, he writes that man,
who was created for fellowship and called in love from the divine image to the divine likeness, man chose instead a path that led not up but down. He repudiated the Godward relationship that is his true essence. Instead of acting as mediator and unifying center, he produced division: division within himself, division between himself and other men, division between himself and the world of nature. Entrusted by God with the gift of freedom, he systematically denied freedom to his fellows. Blessed with the power to reshape the world and to endue it with fresh meaning, he misused that power in order to fashion instruments of ugliness and destruction.” (p. 59-60)
Everything is muddied. Brokenness abounds. Yet, our minds are deluded in thinking we are “broken” because we haven’t landed that job, or married that spouse, or driving that car. How foolish! A sound mind, then, is seeing reality as it really is. Humanity is fractured and broken. Our pursuing wealth, ease, prosperity, etc., is our attempt to find unity and shalom. We are seeking fulfillment in created things which can only be found in the Creator. A sound mind recognizes this and behaves responsively.
Maybe the best definition of a “sound mind” is not so much a definition, but an example. Look to Christ. Jesus perceived the true reality in every circumstance, not content to look only at what his physical eyes saw. And, before someone says, “Yeah, well he’s Jesus”, let us not forget that Jesus was fully human. He grew physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally (Lk 2). Further more, we too often sell ourselves short. The bodies of those who follow Him are literally temples of the Holy Spirit. We have God living in us. We, too, can learn to look not through our physical eyes, but our real eyes.
Jesus saw hurts beneath the hurt. Jesus saw the brokenness lying behind the question. Jesus understood the true needs of souls because he saw the world not as it seems but as God sees. Jesus saw a woman who has had five husbands and rather than giving her relationship counseling or skills in conflict management, recognized she was thirsting for true, unconditional love. She longed for intimacy and trust that comes from being fully known and accepted. So, when Jesus met her, he spoke to the thirst by sending her to the Fount of Life. Jesus saw people as more than a collection of atoms, but as walking representations of God himself. These representatives were broken, lost, and ruined. And, deep in their souls they knew something wasn’t quite right. Jesus met them at their points of need.
We often don’t behave as Christ because we don’t clearly see or hear other’s cries for help. Their pains are overshadowed by our quest for personal pleasure. Our minds are naturally unsound, self-centered, and isolating. Only the Holy Spirit can clear the fog and lay the foundation necessary for a mind to clearly see reality as it really is, reality as Christ sees it.
May the Lord teach us to quiet our souls and hear the sound of his whisper. May the Lord work in our minds so that they might work properly like His. And, may he do all this for His glory and good.
*Image from public domain.