When did it become sinful to change one’s mind? When did the ability and willingness to think, learn and adjust cease to be a sign of maturity and wisdom and become the sin we labeled “flip-flop?”

Don’t get me wrong. I value consistency. For example, I expect a Christian to be consistent in his or her determination to worship only God, practice kindness and generosity toward all others, bear witness in word and deed to Chist, and build the new community of God called church. In the language of modern politics or business, we might say that such commitments are our policies, the large guiding principles of our lives.

Implementing such life-commitments, though, requires a willingness to learn along the way, make assessments, and institute course corrections. Sometimes, it requires abandoning a perspective, strategy, or set of tactics when it becomes clear we’ve been wrong or they no longer advance the cause of Christ.

Take race relations as an example. My maternal grandmother loved God and, insofar as I could determine, anyone she came to know. She had friends among persons of other race. My grandmother participated in baby and wedding showers, funerals, visitation of the sick, and other activities with all her friends without regard for race. If you had asked her why she did so, she would have responded: “Because God loves all of us, and we ought to love one another.”  My grandmother supported equal voting rights, equality before the law, and fair play in the business arena.  By the standards of her time, she was progressive.

On the other hand, my grandmother also believed it was best for all concerned if the races worshiped, went to school and lived separated. She would have argued that such separation was God’s intention and that we ought to honor it.  Such was the conventional wisdom of her culture.

In her last years she changed her mind, much to the astonishment of most of her friends. She did not alter her core perception that God loves all of us and we ought to love one another. She simply, and at some cost, laid aside the limits she had imposed on how God’s love ought to play out in society. While she never became a political firebrand, she decided God intended people of all races to worship, learn, and live integrated.

In today’s climate I suppose my grandmother would be accused of having flip-flopped. Automatically, the use of such a term would imply she lacked moral fiber, intellectual integrity and the like.

I think, though, she was simply Christian. After all, changing one’s mind for good cause is but one aspect of the larger matter of ongoing repentance and repentance is integral to the genuine Christian life.

Have you changed your mind lately? If so, good for you!

Mike Smith is pastor of First Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn. This column appeared originally in his blog.

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