… we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5
Just for the record, I don’t swear, or curse as some would say it. I grew up in Massachusetts saying that bad words were swears. Oooooh, he said a swear word!
After moving to the south, I remember telling a kid not to swear and he looked at me like I had three heads. His friend had to translate for him, “she means you were cursing, man”. Swearing, cursing … tomato, tomaato; you get my point.
Anyone who knows me will tell you I am not one to curse … at least, not out loud. The truth be known, there are times when I find myself swearing in my head; it doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. Am I the only one who does that? I mean, I have enough self control not to say it, but the thinking part, not so much.
I suppose we all think things we are ashamed of. Could that be because not all thoughts are generated by us? Think about it, if you’re embarrassed by what you thought, did you really think it? How can you be both the embarrasser and the embarrassed? Hmmmm.
The Bible tells us to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ. That would mean we are the captors and the thoughts are to be captured. They enter our minds begging for attention and yearning for us to act on them. Thoughts about what we have to do at work, what’s for dinner, what a friend said yesterday, and if our kids are having an early release at school tomorrow. But then there are the thoughts derived from images we’ve seen in person or on the many screens that populate our lives. Memories of one-liners from a sitcom, commercial jingles, violent movie scenes, or sexually charged speech. And then there are those seemingly random thoughts that bubble up from the depths of our minds. They are often a mixture of our many memories and experiences merging with ideas and fantasy to create thoughts that we sometimes find distasteful or even vulgar. Have you ever had a totally random thought pop into your mind, unprovoked? The better question might be who hasn’t had one?
These kinds of thoughts have a direct link to our environment: what we are exposed to in sight, sound, and experience. So, if you are constantly surrounded by kindness and positive images, and you watch clean entertainment, the thoughts that bubble up will more often be in that context. After all, it’s difficult to visualize and imagine things you’ve never seen or been exposed to; although, some creative people may come up with some unimaginable thoughts. On the other hand, if you are filling yourself with vulgar language, violent and sexual images, and crude jokes, it is more likely that your thought life will develop along those lines as well.
As I think about these things, it becomes clear that there are two principles at work here: what I allow to go into my mind and what I do with what comes out of it. I have control over my screen time and what I watch, as well as where and with whom I choose to spend my time. Whatever I choose will eventually find its way into my thought life. This may be why the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:8, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things”. He’s telling us to proactively and purposely think about good things while not spending time dwelling on negative thoughts.
It’s not only the random negative thoughts that bombard my mind, but what I do with them that matters. Do I indulge them, push them aside, or replace them with positive ones? Usually, I rebuke and replace. First, I say no to them, as my way of rejecting what they stand for. Then I think of something positive to say instead of what my mind tries to get me to accept.
Nevertheless, there are still times when I find myself falling into ugly thoughts – mostly about other people. People who don’t act right, treat others right, or say mean and ugly things. There are even times when I hear myself saying people are idiots or I hate people. This is usually in reaction to feelings of hurt, anger or just plain pride and judgment on my part. Thankfully, even though I thought it, I have learned to take it captive; instead of allowing it to define me. Thank God for the power to overthrow negative thoughts so we can glorify Him in what we say, do, and think.