17 March, 2016 40 days of change-Lent, 2016
Open-mindedness – Christians sometimes seem to get a bad press for being closed-minded. I wonder if that is entirely fair? Perhaps, sometimes, it is – sadly – justified. But perhaps, instead Christians should be the first to be expecting truth to come in unexpected forms and in unexpected places?
Right at the start of Luke’s account of Jesus’ life we see that even the 12 year old Jesus was already being listened to as he spoke in the temple. Luke tells us, at 2:41-52, that:
After three days [Mary and Joseph] found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.
Children were not particularly highly valued in those days. Nevertheless, I wonder how many people were blessed by being able to hear the adolescent Jesus speak and talk about the scriptures. On the flip-side, I wonder if there were any there who decided that it wasn’t worth hanging around to hear the answers of a 12 year old boy and didn’t even wait to hear him start to talk? I wonder if I would have listened, or whether I would have assumed there was nothing for me?
If we fast-forward into Jesus’ ministry proper we see so many encounters with people, some who choose to walk on by because they assume that Jesus cannot have anything to say to them, and others who seek him out to hear what he says to say, regardless of their status in society. In John 3 we are introduced to Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin. He probably had more cause than most to feel that he had little more to learn. As an expert in Jewish law and custom what could Jesus show to him? In fact, he seeks Jesus out in the middle of the night – this is no chance encounter but the attitude of a man seeking truth in the most unlikely of places. A modern-day context might be a Supreme Court judge – powerful, wealthy, superbly educated – seeking out a plumber from a provincial town. And it is to this man that Jesus explains that “for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.”
We see Nicodemus again in Chapter 7 at Jesus’ trial. He, uniquely, is the one who asks “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?” (v51) He is the only one to suggest that the group should perhaps listen to what Jesus has to say to them. Instead, he is laughed at (v52). “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.” Everyone else writes Jesus off, without listening to him, simply because of where he was from.
I fear that all too often this is the group I fall to. I wonder if I write people, ideas or challenges off because I think I know where they come from, before I even have listened to hear what they have to say to me. And I wonder what I have missed because, fixed in my certainties, I have not opened my mind to listen?
(contributed by a friend, James Wickham).