There is an old saying that says "those who are heavenly minded are of no earthly good." Some Christians even think the sound of heavenly-mindedness sounds a bit extreme. For many, the idea of heaven seems nice and all, but it’s a concept that seems out of touch with reality.
When we sing On Jordan's Stormy Banks, we have a nice moment of hope and joy...but then almost wake up from that dream-like moment and turn back to our version of reality. We all have jobs, families, classes, and relationships; each tainted with problems. What does heaven have to do with any of that? John Lennon exposes this sentiment in a classic song that makes everyone teary eyed, "imagine there's no heaven, imagine if you can. Imagine all the people living for today." The logic of the song is that if everyone would just stop thinking about the future, and stop thinking about heaven, then we could really get some stuff done in this world. For most of our culture, peace and reconciliation will be the result of everyone dismissing any extra-world connection and putting down any belief in heaven.
The scriptures however, take an extremely different approach. Peace and reconciliation on this earth is only possible through heavenly minded people. In Colossians 3:11 (here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised...), Paul reveals that the logic of the gospel is the renunciation of racism and the reconciliation of parties who would never under any circumstances get along. The urge to do away with racism is not just because it’s wrong, but because it no longer makes sense with who Christians are. The previous verse (Col. 3:10) says that a Christian is someone who is being re-made into the full image of God, which simply means that a Christian is someone who is becoming what a human being is meant to be. Human beings are meant to love all peoples, not letting petty differences separate and define them, which is how God loves people - whom they now reflect. All of this is grounded in what Paul says earlier in Colossians 3:1 (since you have been raised with Christ, set your minds on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God) where he commands us to be heavenly minded. Why? We are to be heavenly minded because we are united to a Christ who right now reigns in heaven. Simply put, the essence of who Christians are, our inner person, is already in heaven with Christ. And because we are from heaven, we ought to live like we are from heaven. Right now. Lennon's precious song really only encourages an ascetic lifestyle that will benefit humanity by withdrawing from most of the things in this world. But Paul's view of heavenly mindedness is an invitation to us to engage this world at its deepest level.
So what does a heavenly minded person look like? It looks like someone who goes to great lengths to overcome racial tension (3:11). It looks like someone who is extremely compassionate (3:12) to people who need it and are not asking for it. It looks like someone who forgives over and over again someone who just doesn't deserve it anymore (3:13). It looks like someone who is content and thankful for their present circumstances (3:15) despite how tough they might be. It looks like the most attractive human being that this earth can host.
There was a woman from Waltham, MA named Edith Taylor who exemplified this. Edith's loving husband Karl was sent on a government job over to Japan, and shortly after sent home a letter that said "Dear Edith, I wish there were a kinder way to tell you that we are no longer married...” Karl had fallen in love with a young Japanese girl and married her. Edith wrote back and said "If your love is gone, ours is just as strong. Please write for the sake of the kids." Karl wrote regularly, and one day had the audacity to write that he was dying of lung cancer and he requested that Edith send money, adopt his kids with his second wife, raise them, and educate them. Edith accepted, and not long after invited Karl's second wife from Japan to come join them and live with her. You could go to Waltham, MA and meet Edith, her two American kids, her two Japanese kids, and her Japanese friend Aiko. She said this "I'm thankful to God for the great privilege of sharing the love of Christ to them, in this a terrible situation." That's a woman who is heavenly minded.
The thing about John Lennon's song is that it doesn't go far enough. It’s only a dream. Heavenly mindedness is a reality, first given for us by Jesus, as he stared Hell in the face, receiving not peace and reconciliation but agony and divisiveness. Jesus we could say was "hell-minded" as he received the cup of wrath from his father and said "Yet not what I will, but what you will." He did this so that through his resurrection, we could get all the glorious benefits of heaven, and join him in bringing the kingdom of heaven here now. Jesus gave us and taught us that being heavenly minded is full of humble, gracious, sacrificing love, welcoming suffering for greater joy, and hoping in a better resurrection. Knowing that, maybe heavenly minded people are the most earthly good after all?