Flip-Flopping: A Christian Virtue

I’m still confused as to why “flip-flopping,” or the act of changing one’s mind, is such a big deal in American politics.  First it was John Kerry in 2004 who was accused of changing his mind (you remember, “I was for the war before I was against it,” and so on); now it’s GOP front-runner Mitt Romney who’s getting all of the accusations.

I hope God never calls me to be president.  My faith, upbringing, and philosophy on life is so tainted with flip-flopping that the media and my critics alike would have a field day.  I would fill the entire New York Times Sunday paper with the amount of changes my mind has made over the years.

But, seriously, is not the changing of one’s mind (or at least the right to change one’s mind) the point of being human?  All of us begin life, if not our Christian life, feeding on milk (Hebrews 5:12-14) because we are still learning how to think, behave, and become reflective moral agents.  It takes years to get to the meat.

As we grow and study, we cultivate ideas that change and evolve as we change and evolve.  Some of these ideas come from our parents or mentors and shape who we are; other ideas or beliefs are left behind as we adapt to new situations.  Eventually, our faith becomes our own once and for all before we pass them on to our children.

It seems that flip-flopping, then, may be a Christian virtue to uphold rather than a bane to banish.  New Testament scholar Willard Swartley once wrote that if church and Bible study are not intended to challenge us and, at times, change our mind, then why do it in the first place?

According to Mark’s gospel, Jesus’ very first public preaching asked listeners to  “repent and believe in the Good News” (1:14).  That implies that Jesus knows something important about the Christian life:  That we are all called to change our mind–our very worldview!–in order to come to know God’s Good News for our life.

We are to turn 180 degrees in order to go from being “me-followers” to Christ-followers.  We are to flip-flop about everything we assume is true in life, and heed the very call of the One who embodies the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Granted, repentance is not easy.  The reason why the media punishes politicians for changing their minds is because it reveals vulnerability, weakness, and insecurity.  Nobody wants to be any of those things; and if a candidate is not sure about his beliefs, then how is he going to lead an entire nation?

Thinking one way, usually a narrow way, over the course of a lifetime shows machismo, courage, and rough-n-tough American grit.  Even if we’re wrong, by-golly, we’re sticking to our guns. Such an attitude is as patriotic as apple pie.

The Christian life, however, depends on one’s ability to be vulnerable, meek, forgiving (of others and ourselves), and thoughtful.  We are called to grow, change, and constantly redirect our lives to follow Christ’s narrow path.

I have a feeling that many folks stay away from Christian communities, churches or otherwise, because they realize that repentance is often needed to maintain some sense of faith in most areas of life.  Sure, we can debate all of the stuff that we think might keep people from coming to know Christ or attending church or believing in God.  Yet, I think that it’s the requirement to repent–to change–that stands out as the crux (no pun intended) of such a commitment.

Perhaps a new beatitude is in order: “Blessed are those who change their mind, for they will soon discover the mind of Christ.”

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2 thoughts on “Flip-Flopping: A Christian Virtue

  1. Joe, I share your sentiments. I wish more politicians would be willing to admit, “You know I was wrong on that issue. I’ve changed my mind now and am pursuing a new direction.” Or even if they would say, “While I still believe in this solution to a problem, I will be willing to compromise on it in order to pass something” (for example I will be willing to raise taxes if you will agree cut spending).

    Likewise in our churches I simply wish people were interested enough in Truth to pursue it and change their thoughts, attitudes, and actions when they discover it. Unfortunately we have defined strength of character not by standing up for what is right (which means discovering what is right), but by standing up for your beliefs, even if they’re wrong.

    On the other hand though, there is some mettle to this flip-flop issue. I think the concern is whether a person is changing their mind because in their search for truth they discovered something that made them change their opinion, or if a person changed their stance merely for political expediency. The same question needs to be posed to our churches. Why do we stand for what we stand? Is it because we have always held this opinion (stick to our guns even if we’re wrong), because this is what’s popular and we want to appeal to the most people, or because we have searched God’s word and spent time in prayer to discover this is the truth?

    If the first two reasons are our attitude then let us repent (change our mind) and let the third guide but if we have followed the course of the third reason then let us stand until our Lord guides us different.

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