Seeking through Thinking

In Colossians 3:1-2, Paul gives two commands: (literally) “seek the things above” (v. 1) and “think on the things above” (v. 2).

What’s the relationship between those two commands?  Do we seek with our heart and think with our mind?  Do we both seek and think with our mind, or both with our heart?

Maybe the second command is synonymous with the first (since Paul is prone to say the same thing twice, only with different words), or perhaps the second command explains how the first one is accomplished…

I think the parallel object in both commands (“the things above”) suggests that the two commands are essentially the same–but not totally the same.  In both commands, “the things above” are the goal.  But what if someone read Paul’s first command and asked, “How do I seek the things above?”  Paul’s next statement might be seen as the answer: You seek the things above with your mind.  This is a command, then, for seeking through thinking.

The commands in Colossians 3:1-2 are not totally distinct, given their identical object, but the second seems to explain how to obey the first.

Paul’s emphasis on the mind here shouldn’t be surprising, given the fact that Jesus himself said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).

Pursuing God, then, begins in the mind.  We must be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Rom 12:2), and we must think on what is excellent and praiseworthy (Phil 4:8).

Seeking God through thinking doesn’t render void the aspects of our affections, though.  That would be a false dichotomy–saying that we would have to choose between thinking and loving or thinking and zeal.  We need both.  We shouldn’t settle for ignorant zeal or empty intellectualism (besides, didn’t we just read Jesus’ words that said to love God with the mind?).

Finally, note that Paul’s words in Colossians 3:1-2 are commands.  Seeking God through thinking is a matter of obedience.  Paul is not presenting us with recommendations.  We will either pursue God with our minds, or we will be disobedient.


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