Center of Thought

Many years ago, scientists believed the earth was the center of our universe, with all the other planets, and even the sun, rotating around it. That concept was geocentric, and was attributed to the work of astronomer and mathematician Ptolemy. This belief persisted for many years until Copernicus put forth the idea that the sun, instead, was the center of the universe, a belief that is called heliocentric.

The difference between the two beliefs was, of course, what scientists and astronomers thought was at the center of the universe; naturally, that difference of belief led to differing conclusions about how the universe operated and how the planets moved throughout their specific orbits. Part of what may have made this view appealing is the ego of man, who often thinks the whole of Creation revolves around his existence; that is, we think everything is about us and for us. We have an over-inflated ego! But what we may not know is that the geocentric view may have endured for as long as it did because religious men made a bad interpretation of Scripture, and would not tolerate the possibility of being shown wrong. Those who thought differently would not dare bring up the possibility of a different view, lest they draw attention to themselves and the real threat of punishment and being ostracized by the scientific community.

The sad reality was, unfortunately, some of the prior beliefs about a geocentric universe were propagated by the Roman Catholic Church, based on a literal interpretation of Joshua 10:12-14, specifically, about the sun “standing still.” Someone reasoned that if the sun “stood still,” that the only conclusion was that it moved and, thus, orbited the earth. When Galileo published his treatise on the universe that supported the heliocentric view of Copernicus [the earth orbits the sun], he was eventually brought before a council and made to repent of “heresy” for contradicting church doctrine. Galileo’s work, though, could not be silenced and, eventually, the truth was accepted that the earth was not the center of the universe, after all, but the sun.

Man quite often has had incorrect views about various ideas, objects, and people that are based on an incorrect concept of what is at the ‘center’ of whatever it is they are thinking. As a case in point, consider that the portion of this planet we call the Middle East is done so because Europeans considered their lands as the center of the civilized world, and all other lands are named accordingly; hence, Asian countries are often referred to as the East and the Americas are called the West. Accordingly the land we called the Middle East once considered itself as the center of the world, hence the term given to the waters in that region called the Mediterranean, which literally means ‘middle of the land/earth.’ And, the ancient Chinese pictograph for the nation of China may be literally translated as ‘center region.’ It seems man quite often sees where he is — or even who he is — as the ‘center’ of all thought and anything important.

This pattern has continued to this day, and in many aspects of our earthly lives, but is most often seen in the all-too-common practice of seeing and thinking of self as the center of all things. Far too often individuals have an inflated view of self and think others should bow to their whims and wishes, that only their personal happiness is what matters, or what happens to them is the only thing of any importance. Self-centered thinking is quite often the source of many conflicts and much trouble. Self-centered thinking is also responsible for the lack of compassion, mercy, and understanding amongst society, as a whole. When one is thinking only of self, it is awfully hard to think about others, or be concerned with what is happening in someone else’s life.

But even this is not new. In the first century, the Jews had religious leaders who were self-centered in their thought; while they may have tried to portray themselves as devoted to God and concerned with truth, God’s ways, and God’s commands, such was not actually the case. They revealed their self-centered thinking when they rebuked the soldiers for their amazement at what Jesus said, asking them with incredulity, “Are you also deceived? Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him?” (John 7:47, 48). To the religious leaders, it seemed only what they did or believed was what was important; apparently, the facts did not matter. They revealed this later, too, when they sought to destroy Jesus when His irrefutable works were being told throughout the land (John 11:47-53).

It is self-centered thinking behind the common plea, “Don’t you think God wants me to be happy?” The question centers on self, rather than God; if I were really interested in serving God, I would ask, “What can I do to make God happy?” The apostle Paul had the right center of thought, telling us, “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him (2 Cor. 5:9). He even had the right question when confronted on the road to Damascus, asking, “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10). His center of thought was not pleasing self, but the Lord.

Paul was willing to go to great lengths to please others (to an extent; cf. Gal. 1:10), as long as it did not conflict with his service to God and Jesus Christ. He wrote, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:19-22). To sum it up, he said, “I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved” (1 Cor. 10:33). Paul knew that if his center of thought was himself, then he would not lead anyone to Christ and to salvation, so he set self aside and focused on the Lord and on his fellow man.

Now, more than ever, we must be promoting and demonstrating that a life of self-centered thinking is not the answer to the world’s problems, and will not bring happiness to anyone. Pursuing what makes self happy, rather than what makes God happy, or someone else happy, only brings more and more conflict. It is when we start thinking about what God would have us to do, and it is when we start thinking about the needs of others that peace will be achieved and maintained.

So instead of thinking about self — what you want, what makes you happy, or even what wrongs have been committed against you — shift your center of thought to God and Christ. Find those things that are pleasing to God, and it is amazing how perceived troubles or unhappiness will slowly fade away.

Christians “live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15). Steven Harper