I find one of the most difficult things in the Christian life is challenging wrong thinking. It’s not only changing our thinking which is required; the first step is actually recognising that our thinking is wrong.
We live in a culture full of ideas and preconceptions, all of which we absorb (often unconsciously) from a young age. The Jews had absorbed centuries of teaching about being God’s chosen people, which was true… but they had also absorbed the notion that everyone else was excluded from God’s family, which was not. Separating true thinking from false thinking is the first step to change.
How do we do this? We need the word of God to show us truth and the Spirit of God to make the connections for us to understand how this applies in our situation. Often, this does not seem like rocket science to an outsider, but it can be difficult for us to do. Jesus was once questioned by a group of Sadducees about the resurrection. They had preconceptions about the resurrection based on a firm belief it couldn’t happen and were trying to prove to Jesus their point of view through a ridiculous question based on improbably circumstances. (Mark 12:18-23) Jesus pointed out the error of their views through Scripture. (Mark 12:24-27)
The first step is, therefore, to know the truth and this can only happen as we allow the word of God and the Spirit of God to rule in our hearts. The next step is harder, though: we have to accept that truth only frees us if we do what it says. We have to submit ourselves to God’s word. When our attitudes and actions contradict the truth we find in God’s word, we have to let go of those attitudes and actions. Most of us stumble at this point, because we are sinners. We don’t like admitting we’re wrong and we prefer our sinful choices to the painful admission that God is right and we are wrong.
But if we actually choose to believe God over our own feelings and ideas, revolutionary change can happen. Gentiles and Jews can co-exist in God’s family. Slaves can be set free. People can be treated with respect and honour because they’re people made in God’s image, not because they’re rich or white or belong to the right family. Children can be welcomed and loved, even if the circumstances of their conception were not ideal. Murderers can be forgiven. Men and women can live in harmony instead of in competition. We can change the world… not because we have the power in ourselves to do that, but because we are aligned with the all-powerful God.
All of this starts with our thinking. We see Christianity as a global movement today precisely because Peter and the first Jews were willing to change their thinking. Are we?