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Use your nous!

Jesus [Jesus, AD 30, Galilee] answered, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to metanoia.  Luke 5: 31, 32


Has anyone ever given you that instruction to use your nous (pronounced as “mouse” only with an “n”)? Maybe at school?


Nous is British slang for “common sense” and its root is a Greek word – nous – which originally meant “perception” and/or “understanding”. The word in bold italics above used by Jesus of Nazareth – metanoia – is, in fact a combination of meta and nous.


What, then, is meta? Well, on its own it means “with” or “by means of”. But as part of metanoia it alters slightly and comes to mean “change of knowledge”, that is, “change of nous – alteration of common sense, alteration of perception.


So Jesus said that he had come to call “sinners” to an altered nous, an altered perception.


What perceptions do “sinners” have? What perception do we all have? Punishment follows sin. Yes. But Jesus came to alter that perception. It ain’t necessarily so.


If you, like so many of us, suffer with – or have suffered from – depression, you may well have come across an increasingly recommended treatment. It is drugs-free and known as “cognitive-behavioural therapy”. It’s being used in Jersey – with some success. And the word “cognitive” means “with nous”.....


A “therapy” is, of course, a course of treatment. And this course of treatment is described by “cognitive-behavioural” meaning “relating-to-knowledge-and-relating-to-behaviour”. With possibly some loss of accuracy through brevity, the depressed person is helped to see the connection between negative thoughts, the emotions they generate (like anger, fear) and the behaviour that follows.


By examining the effects of these negative thoughts (negative nous) on feelings and behaviour a perception is unveiled of the effect that these negative thoughts are having (like the sinners’ thoughts about inevitable punishment). The patient is then asked to examine the evidence for and against these negative thoughts and feelings. What does the evidence indicate? Are these thoughts true to the evidence, the facts (or, as with Jesus Christ, has he come with a very different message)?


If the depressed person concludes that what has been believed in the past is not, in fact, true – that there is a different reality – then he/she begins the difficult (but very rewarding) task of introducing the new nous into life-changing thinking, into emotions and into behaviour. (As with Jesus Christ, the good news of nil punishment and nil guilt for many sinners is life-changing.)


Yes, the resultant metanoia does work for depressed, unhappy people – often better than drugs - in the psychiatric world. And unsurprisingly it works too where the nous is the truth about Jesus of Nazareth, why he came, what he did for others.


The Christian therapy is in a single 48-page paperback that I can recommend to all the depressed – Mark’s biography of Jesus Christ written AD 65. One incident in it is of a suicidal young man.


From birth he was severely depressed and his father brought him to Jesus in AD 30. The questions posed by the “physician” (Jesus - see bold above) established that the young man sought escape from his despair through suicide by drowning or by throwing himself into fire. And the lad, though totally uncommunicative before, had a life-changing change of nous.


For Jersey depressives (like me) a change of nous does not come through reading that event alone. It comes through the whole therapy, through the call to metanoia – to an altered understanding and perception. This physician’s therapy has been called “abundant life”. Use your nous!

‘The faith that does not come from reason is to be doubted, and the reason that does not lead to faith is to be feared.’ (G Campbell Morgan, Preacher, 1863-1945)
‘Let us never forget that the message of the Bible is addressed primarily to the mind, to the understanding.’ (D Martyn Lloyd Jones, Preacher, 1899-1981)
Richard Syvret

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