Growing up, I thought being open-minded was a negative thing. It was related to being wishy-washy, watered down, or not grounded in one’s beliefs.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about being open-minded. Because I would describe myself as open-minded, but I wouldn’t describe myself as wishy-washy, watered down, or ungrounded.
When I was in high-school and college, I freaked out over decision-making, thinking that if I made even the slightest decision in the wrong direction, I would ruin the course of my life. When praying about decisions related to dating, career, what to study, I would become extremely anxious and afraid.
Finally, I somehow came to a realization that I was making it way more complicated than it should be – more complicated than God was making it.
I realized: as long as I’m following Jesus and working on my relationship with Him, He wouldn’t let me fall off a cliff. If he wasn’t waving a red flag in my face, it may simply be saying, “Why don’t you decide?”
Could it really be that not all decisions are black and white? Could it be that there’s not one incredibly detailed, specific path we have to follow, with each step completely perfect or else we’ve ruined our entire destiny? Could it be that sometimes Jesus wants us to make the decision?
So I basically fell into this mantra:
As long as I’m following Jesus, I can’t mess up.
As long as I was seeking to listen to him and hear his direction, there’s no reason he would withhold directing me where I needed direction. And when he was silent, I was free to make my own, hopefully wise, decisions.
I start off with all of this to lead into what I believe is the key to being an open-minded Christian – one who is not wishy-washy or watered down or ungrounded.
How to be a confident Christian who is eager to engage in thoughtful conversation with all different kinds of people from all different beliefs and backgrounds in order to better understand their stories and beliefs.
Someone who incorporates this understanding of others into their own belief system, to challenge their own beliefs, refine them and deepen them.
I’m not saying everyone needs to be open-minded in a way that says, “I’m ready to cave on my beliefs.”
No. That’s just not being sure of yourself.
I’m suggesting that we can be firmly grounded in our faith and beliefs, with the understanding that we ultimately cannot be sure about everything, that those with other beliefs are not always personally attacking you for yours, and that engaging in the dialog can be refining, not threatening.
Now, not just anyone can jump right into this. To get here, there is some personal growth and development that has to take place first.
First, we must ask, why do I believe what I believe?
Have I ever had to explain it to someone?
Can I make a solid argument both with and without the Bible for why I believe this?
Do I understand what the other positions are on this issue and where they’re coming from?
Do I understand the real people this issue actually affects deeply in day-to-day lives?
Always asking why is critical. Asking why until you can no longer ask why of each answer it brings.
Here’s a classic church example where you can keep asking “why?”: modesty of dress.
- Why can’t I wear that dress?
- Why can’t I show that area of skin?
- Why does men being “visual” relate to me?
- Why do I not want men to “stumble”?
- Why is that on me and not them?
- Why does their lust and self-control issues mean I’m sinning?
- Why doesn’t what I wear or show off have more to do with my own hear than a man’s personal sin?
A basic answer doesn’t get down to the real issue which is about the girl’s heart and a desire to honor God – regardless of how that translates into what clothes she wears.
So the first step is to ask why we believe what we believe. We must solidly know what we believe, why we believe it, and how it relates to other viewpoints.
That still doesn’t make an open-minded Christian.
You could know what you believe, why you believe it, and have all the most intellectual arguments to present for every viewpoint, but still be completely closed off to hearing others’ stories and perspectives, or the Holy Spirit teaching you deeper understandings of the Truth.
Stopping after this first step can lead to arrogance, assuming we already know the complete truth to full understanding.
This is where we often stop pursuing personal, spiritual knowledge of God – we don’t even realize it, but we take all the mystery out of our perception of him by having perfect arguments and leaving room to learn who he is.
Here is where I’ll go back to what I learned in college. Here’s what I believe is the key to being a grounded, open-minded Christian:
As long as you’re consistently, sincerely seeking Jesus and the Truth he reveals, you will not miss it.
Once you have a good understanding of biblical truth and a spiritual, personal relationship with Jesus, the key from here is to simply keep seeking to know Jesus and let him gently teach his Truth to your heart.
God wants us to know him. If we ask him to let us know him and ask him to teach us truth, there is no way he will lead us away from him or lead us to lies.
So I’m allowed to not be afraid.
I don’t think we often relate fear to open-mindedness, but that’s really what it comes down to.
When we’re close-minded or promote close-mindedness, it’s because we stop trusting.
We’re scared someone will wander off the right path. We stop trusting that we truly know Jesus or that Jesus will truly guide us or the person we fear for. We worry we didn’t teach enough Truth and the Holy Spirit won’t properly convict how He’s supposed to.
But when I know Jesus and regularly build my relationship with him, I’m allowed to not be afraid.
I’m allowed to be eager and hungry to engage in conversation with those who have completely different worldview than I do.
I’m allowed to listen with an open heart and open mind to all they have to say.
I’m allowed to not be afraid different beliefs will steer me wrong.
I’m allowed to not be the authority on truth – the pressure is off!
Because I don’t find my confidence in my beliefs or the beliefs of others.
I don’t find my identity in whether or not I agree with a certain sect of people.
My worth is found in Truth – in Jesus.
As long as I’m in relationship with him, I don’t have to walk in fear, dodging this person or that belief system.
So there it is: I’m an open-minded Christian.
Because I trust that Jesus will never let me down. No matter what I hear, no matter which stories I listen to – Jesus will keep me safe and show me the Truth through all of it.
I know God’s ways are higher than my ways and I will never have it all figured out.
I know what I believe, why I believe it, and how it relates to other viewpoints.
But most importantly, I know that I am close to someone who loves me, wants the best for me, and will never lead me in the wrong direction.
The only way I will go the wrong direction is if I choose to walk away.
So the only belief I hold tightly to is this:
Jesus loves me, wants me to know him, and wants to lead me and everyone else into a deeper understanding of His Truth….
…not my truth or your truth.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God…. Jesus said, “I am the Way the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through me.”