“In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable.
9 Put into practice what you learned and received from me, both from my words and from my actions. And the God who gives us peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9 GNT)
Conspiracy theories can be interesting and, I guess fun if that’s your particular mindset. But they almost always end up being just that. Theories. It would seem that a good rule of thumb would be if it sounds sensational and complicated then it’s probably not true. if it sounds pretty mundane, that’s probably what happened.
Take for instance the “mysterious” death of Napoleon Bonaparte. For years the rumor has been that he was poisoned. Slowly poisoned over a period of years through the use of arsenic. Napoleon fueled this himself by spreading rumors that should he die before his time, the English had done it through the use of poison.
When Napoleon died, it wasn’t long before the rumors began. Arsenic is an easy target as if it’s done slowly the person will not exhibit many symptoms. The theorists assumed, since Napoleon never appeared to have been poisoned he must, or course have been poisoned by something that doesn’t leave a trail. You can see how quickly these theories become convoluted. The theory gained some steam when a lock of Napoleon’s hair was tested, hundreds of years later, and it was discovered that he had a 100% higher level of arsenic in his system. Murder is afoot!
But the reality is much more, as almost always, more pedestrian. First a further examination of Napoleon’s family revealed they all had a 100% higher level of arsenic in their systems. If one goes through the records of his last days it seems much more likely that Napoleon was sick (his family had a history of cancer) and his death actually had more to do with the poor medical practices of his day than a mysterious assassin. In short, he got sick, the care wasn’t good and he didn’t recover.
So how do we explain the arsenic? Wallpaper. As hard as it is to believe today, The wallpaper in those times was laced with arsenic to be sued as a bit of decorative extermination of vermin. Rats and mice were a persistent issue back then. And someone came up with the idea of introducing arsenic into the wallpaper. As a mouse or a rat chewed through the wall to get into the house, it ate through the wallpaper and died. Genius. Creepy but genius.
But the wallpaper also gave off a gas of arsenic. So if you lived in a home with this wallpaper, over time you ingested or at least were exposed to a toxic gas. This would explain the high levels in his family. It would also explain illness and perhaps, just perhaps one of the causes of Napoleon’s inability to recover.
I think most of us will agree, that even if it doesn’t kill us long-term exposure to toxins is bad for our systems. We have all read about places where chemicals were leaked into an environment with often tragic results. Long term exposure to toxins can be deadly to us. And the danger is that it can happen so slowly we may not even be aware of it.
Perhaps that’s one of the reasons Paul admonishes us to be careful what we use to fill our minds. Paul tells us to fill our minds with good things. Why? Because if we fill our mind and souls with things that are toxic to us, it will eventually cause great damage.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. In part because Of all the toxic behavior we have been exposed to latety in the media and certainly in social media. It doesn’t really matter where you stand on an issue, wait around and someone will say something pretty toxic. Anger, hatred, demeaning langue. You simply can’t have your spirit constantly exposed to it and not be affected. Most of us, I hope, would allow our minds be filled with pornography because we can see it’s damaging. One wonders why we allow verbal pornography to enter our hearts.
I know I’ve felt too much exposure to toxic actions and reactions to much in social media. And I can see it’s effects on my spirit. Of course, simply cutting oneself off from social media might help. Bu the toxins of anger and unchristian thought can still find a way to invade us. So I’m taking some steps to follow Paul and be more careful with what I fill my mind. These are just the things I’m doing. It’s not a mandate, but I hope at least some of it might be helpful to you
1) Take more time to fill your heart and life with more good than you do toxins. Take stock. if your time on social media is greater than the time you spend in the scriptures, in prayer, spending time with real people, your probably in danger of being exposed to too much toxin. More Jesus is always a good rule of thumb.
2) Take the word “fill” seriously. It doesn’t mean we can’t read or react to things we disagree with, but we must be careful not to fill our minds with them. God doesn’t ask us to bury our heads in the sand. And seeing this from another’s perspective can be healthy. But when they fill our mind or our time, or even our social media feeds” its dangerous.
3) Filter is better than filling. This may be different for all of us. But I’ve started filtering out feeds and posts that tend to fill my mind with toxins. If I don’t see it, I’m not in danger of being filled with it. I’ve found there are things said I agree with and I can disagree and move on. But there are some written in such a way and so filled with negativity that it spills over into my life. So I filter them out.
3)Know that you don’t have to respond to everything you disagree with. Here’s the reality. None ever has their remind changed in social media. So the likelihood of your changing everyone’s thoughts is pretty slim. What usually happens is that we read something and respond, others get involved and before long its a toxic mess.
What I’ve started doing is, if I think its got toxic potential, is I pray before I respond. Not just “God, what should I say?” But “God, should I even respond?” You’d be surprised how many times God tells me to let it go and move on.
4) Always ask if what you read and how you respond honors Jesus. That one seems fairly self-explanatory.
5) Never bash the Bride. My own personal rule. I never speak ill of the church or other Christians. I’ve no problem disagreeing or questioning theology. But I never intentionally bash or demean the church or other Christians. The church is the bride of Christ and should be protected.
5) Look before you leap. Before I hit send I look it over and ask this. What does this say about me and my relationship with Jesus. I’m reminded of Paul’s encouragement to the church in Corinth to be imitators of him. Would I want others to imitate what I have done or assume that’s how Jesus is?
Please know I’m not advocating we all hold hands and watch cat videos.
Discourse and disagreement is healthy. But toxicity is not. I’m simply working harder at what enters my mind and heart. And I’m trying to hold on to verse 9 where Paul tells us to put into practice what we have learned. Fill your minds. But be careful what you fill them with.
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><