Closed-minded and narrow-minded. These descriptors get tossed about in society and splashed across the Internet. While the definition of closed-minded can mean unreceptive or rigid, narrow-minded often refers to intolerance or prejudice. And these days, whenever either is used, it seems the word Christian isn’t far behind. As a Christ follower who desires to live my life on the foundation of biblical teachings, I wonder if it’s even possible to avoid these labels.
The reality is that anyone who holds firm beliefs in something – whether it be politics, religion, or worthy causes – could be considered narrow- or even closed-minded. Even atheists who claim to have an open mind have deep convictions – they strongly disbelieve in God. I would also argue that most people have embedded biases that affect their decision making and choices, even if it’s unconsciously. Many people who strive to have an open mind may have a more directed focus than they think. For example, when searching for information or answers on the Internet, how often do you study the opposing view for understanding, not just to strengthen your position or stance? I would guess that most queries for information are really quests for affirmation.
While striving to be open-minded may seem like the obvious desired approach and gain you society’s approval, it led to a path that nearly derailed me. Six years of seminary blew my mind wide open! It was a time of deconstruction, with a goal to wipe my brain clear of any preconceived ideas, beliefs, or biases. In the process I left my biblical foundation behind in favor of my own feelings, logic, and scholarly research. The result was confusion, wandering, depression, and sometimes utter dismay. The lesson I learned is that the purpose of seeking knowledge about God should be to draw closer to Him. Ironically, I had gained more information about God, but nearly lost my relationship with Him.
Jesus knew there would be many competing voices today just as there were in the days when He first uttered His clarifying invitation, “Follow Me.” With these words He guided people to have a direction, a foundation, and a community embodied in love – with a single-minded focus on Him. The definition of single-minded is “having or concentrating on only one aim or purpose.” This is different than being narrow- or closed-minded. It’s a laser beam focus with an objective, without promoting hatred nor prejudice. In fact, Jesus’ greatest commandment is the opposite of that: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind … And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-40)
After all my years of studies about God, theology, and the Bible, I have come full circle and firmly believe that we should strive to have an open heart to all we meet, yet a single mind focused on Christ.
How about you?