In computer circles there is a saying, “Garbage in, garbage out.” What it refers to is that even if you have a perfect program – one without any glitches or bugs in it – you will still get bogus results out of it if you feed it the wrong data. The same thing is true of our thinking. If we have the wrong information, we will arrive at the wrong conclusion no matter how clearly we think.
While it may be amusing to receive computer generated mail addressed to the cat because someone entered the wrong information into their system, there is another type of data which can actually harm or destroy the system through which it passes. If you’ve ever opened the wrong sort of email attachment, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
The same thing applies to our minds. What we think about, and the way we choose to think, can actually change us. I saw a really good illustration of this concept in a classroom. Above the door was a drawing of someone pouring the contents of a garbage can into his head. The garbage he puts into his mind spills out of his mouth. Garbage in, garbage out, and in the process of flowing through us, the garbage affects our minds.
For example, one of the philosophies which is gaining a lot of ground in our world is that reason itself, and therefore thinking, is invalid. To express it another way, all conclusions are equally valid because there is no objective truth. There is no correct way to think. I’m sure that you’ve all heard one of the outgrowths of this philosophy – the notion that all religions are just different ways to get to God? In 2nd Peter 2:12, the Apostle Peter compares false teachers to animals. Why? The Greek phrase which is used there implies that the false teachers are without reason. In other words, they have messed up their ability to think. They have turned away from reason.
In Romans 1:21 Paul writes, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (NIV) What Paul is saying is that what we think, and how we think, has a definite effect on our characters. If we don’t guard our minds, we will wind up in spiritual darkness.
How can we guard our minds, and our thinking? Colossians, chapter 3, contains the key. It instructs us to set our minds “on things above, not on earthly things.” (3:2 NIV) Paul goes on to say that Christ is our life. (3:4) The idea is that we should be so full of Christ that wrong thoughts and the wrong way of thinking will not have a chance to affect us. We tend to compartmentalize things. We tend to separate church from the rest of life. But it shouldn’t be that way. We need to think and act as Christ would all the time, just not for an hour or two on Sunday. It’s not always easy. The world bombards us every day with all kinds of things which will mess up our thinking and take us away from Christ.
In this context, I am very glad that we have a tangible reminder of what God has done for us through Christ. Every week we come together to renew our commitment to live for Christ. The unleavened bread and the juice ground us in reality. They center us. Whenever the world starts to mess with our heads, these symbols remind us of God’s love. They remind us that Jesus really did walk this earth, and really did sacrifice Himself for us. They remind us that Jesus rose from the grave and that He is coming again. These emblems remind us that we are precious to God. No matter what the world throws at us, these emblems, which represent Jesus’ body and blood, can clear our thinking and remind us of what is really important.