Notes from Pastor John
I was re-reading one of my journal entries during a trip to London a few years ago. In the entry, I asked myself, how can I have an open mind and integrate all of the history, ideas, and differences I was seeing. Everyone is different and all carry something unique about life, but we close ourselves off to what others might understand and know because of differences
and judgments, cultures and times. It is a question that has haunted me and rereading
it brought it up again. I think it is especially important to think about being open minded in today’s world, which is becoming more and more polarized. This polarization is not just political, but religious, economical, generational, regional, and international. How can I open my mind and hear other’s truths and ideas?
How can I use these truths? Perhaps I should start with a different question, “Do I have an open mind?” Here are a few of my thoughts on being open minded.
Is being open minded one of the truths hidden in Jesus’ comment on the sermon on the mount? “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1) I have always thought the passage was about not judging others motives and behaviors. Is it possible what Jesus is pushing is for me to quit closing others out because of one of my judgments about race, religious preference, sexual orientation, or political party? Is Jesus encouraging me to have an open mind and hear what others might have to offer? I would like to know as much about life and our world as I can. However, if I cut off a segment of the world because of one of my judgments, I am cutting off ideas, beauty, and truths from that part of the world. The limitation I am imposing is on me, not them.
I have always felt fortunate to have grown up in a multicultural world. I was an American kid, growing up in South America, which allowed me to learn Spanish fluently. This created in me an ability to look at things from different perspectives. This idea has been coined in many other ways throughout the world, but it basically says, “Don’t criticize another man, until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.” An open mind requires that I see things through your eyes. I cannot empathize with you until I can feel and see what you are feeling and seeing. To stand beside another, with empathy, you need first have an open mind.
The disciples who followed Jesus, did they have an open mind? Throughout their time with Jesus he changed their mind about just about everything. He changed the direction of their life, how they worshiped, how they thought about God. Did he ever tell them they would need an open mind? The gospels clearly contrast them with the closed mindedness of the Pharisees. Even when they saw the miracles and power of Jesus, they would not open their minds. I imagine we could say the same thing about the Holy Spirit. To follow its lead and bring grace we have to have an open mind. We see the disciple responding and following the lead of the Holy Spirit as they open their mind to the new idea that the Gentiles were to be a part of the church.
We see the apostle Paul’s journey of faith, from the Damascus road encounter with Christ to Rome. He went from being a very closed minded Pharisee to being a very open minded follower of Christ. It was a remarkable journey. The Paul who ended up in Rome, did not have the same mindset, as the one who left to persecute the church from Jerusalem. Is it a requisite that Christians be open minded?
I can observe in my life the times I have been closed minded. Usually I quit being curious. I quit asking questions. I am sure that I am right. It is usually at these moments I end up setting up a wall which leads to not letting others contribute to my life and vision. Curiosity is one way of opening your mind. We are encouraged to be curious as kids and teenagers, not so curious as young adults, and not curious at all as adults. People want adults to conform and adopt to what is the standard even when the standard doesn’t work. Conforming and adopting the norm, closes one’s mind. When I made my New Years resolutions, I should have said, “This year I will be more curious! I will ask more questions.”
What was the last book you read, other than the Bible, of course? Reading, both fiction and non-fiction opens my mind. The plethora of ideas and viewpoints are the visions of the human experience throughout the world. I remember talking with Carolyn Geiser, our church librarian. She and I would discuss books she was preparing to put in the library. She chose books from “both sides of the aisle.” She said once, “I don’t agree with this author, but I am trying to be balanced. I hope no one gets upset?” She was very open minded. I like this quote by George R.R. Martin. “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The one who never reads lives only one.” One lifetime will not be enough for me.
Salvation inherently means to be changed. And the deeper one delves into salvation, the more profound the changes. Eventually
salvation will touch every aspect of your life. To be changed one has to have an open mind. I have never really linked these two ideas, salvation and the need for an open mind. As I think about it, however, it reveals a key to participating or rejecting the very grace of God. God always asks for changes. When I close my mind I push God away. When I close my mind I am no longer open to change. When I open it, I am better able to welcome GOD. The idea of having an open mind might be more profound and important than I can imagine. For example, Romans 12:2 states,“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is his good, pleasing and perfect will.“ This requires and open mind:
It is time for me to maintain an open mind and search for truth. Here are some teasers about being open minded:
The mind is like a parachute, it doesn’t work unless it is open. Frank Zappa
It is the narrow mind which cannot look at something from various points of view. George Elliot
When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir? John Maynard Keynes
Be open minded, but not so much that your brain falls out. Richard Dawkins