As I have often noted, the first word out of Jesus mouth in His public ministry is repent. The Greek word He employs and that is translated into English as repent is metanoia, which means “change your mind.” But, change your mind to what? Obviously, “put on the mind of Christ,” think like Christ. One could then reasonably ask what good will it do anybody or the world to struggle and persevere in the struggle to think like Christ? Here is the answer the late Rev. John L. McKenzie, one of the most significant Catholic Biblical Scholar of the twentieth century, gives to that question.
To think like Christ, what will that do to our world of values which have been built up in us by nurturing, habit and conviction in our years from childhood, which we have learned from our parents and teachers, from our peers, from our friends and from our enemies—with whom we share many values—from our reading, from stage and screen, and now from the omnipresent television? Suppose we ask ourselves what we think is really important or valuable, really worth doing or experiencing, and what is to be avoided at all costs? It will shock us, if we go through these things, how many of them have been uncritically accepted, how few are the result of mature spiritual thought and conviction. Think like Christ—and how much of what we adore would we have to burn? Both the Gospels and epistles insist that thinking like Jesus is a personal responsibility, which each must fulfill for him or herself.
Too often in the modern world we take refuge behind such excuses as quotation marks, “everybody does it.” Was it ever different in any society? My friend Gordon Zahn wrote about a German peasant named Franz Jagerstatter who refused the advice of his bishop, his priest, his neighbors and his family, all of whom were Christians. He stubbornly resisted going along with Hitler, although “everybody is doing it,” and he maintained this position in spite of no more than an elementary education and apparently much less native intelligence, than many who served Hitler with a good conscience, or at least a quiet conscience. Of course it cost him his life; he was beheaded. But, he died having saved something, which those who survived had lost; they better than anyone else can tell what that is. I do not know whether Jagerstatter always thought like Christ; he succeeded, however, in doing so at the most critical moment of his life, when millions of other Christians had failed to do so, and his spiritual directors told him he was wrong.
My concern here is with putting on the mind of Christ, thinking like Christ, so that I can make Christian moral decisions in my state of life, in my profession, in those complex of human relations which are uniquely mine. No one is so lacking in talent or education or so underprivileged that the mind of Christ, thinking like Christ, is beyond their grasp.