Summary: This week we are using Saul who became Paul as a model of several competancies to emotionally healthy spirituality. These are things that we need to develop to show our true colors of who we are in Christ.
Back to School
November 1, 2009
Last week we looked at issues of emotional awareness and the need to know ourselves. We need to know what we are feeling, why we are feeling these things, how we should deal with things, being reflective in order to accurately assess ourselves.
While those thoughts were pretty inward focused, this week we are going to turn outward. Specifically what is needed to show thyself. What do we need to exhibit and practice outwardly in order to grow emotionally healthy spirituality.
When I thought of these things, I thought of early Paul. I thought of when Paul was just starting out in his ministry after his conversion. It was a time when God was pouring out His Spirit on Gentile believers. For a while, the Jesus movement was focused on Jews. Then God spoke to Peter and God moved in a mighty way on some Gentiles forever changing the spiritual landscape. It was determined that God was at work among the Gentiles.
A guy named Barney not a purple dinosaur nor was he bumbling deputy that carried an unloaded gun so he wouldn’t shoot himself. Barney (his real name was Barnabas) felt called to give proper instruction to some of these Gentile believers. After a while, God multiplied the ministry and he needed help so Barney stopped off and recruited Paul.
Paul was a former Pharisee. He knew the scriptures inside and out, backward and forward. Paul was on fire for God and knew that if God’s people would get their act together, then God would move mightily and deliver His people. So Paul made it his personal mission to eradicate the obvious obstacle: the heretics who taught that Jesus had risen from the dead. They were the ones to blame. God is obviously testing the truly faithful to clean things up so he went on this mission from God giving it everything he had.
Only one little problem. Paul (who called himself Saul) was completely wrong. He knew the scriptures but didn’t know God. His rigid belief system kept him from seeing that the scriptures revealed everything about this Jesus who is indeed the savior of the world. Paul couldn’t see it until Jesus personally showed him. So now here we are. Paul is now a converted Saul. He follows Jesus. He has completely changed his mind and Barn sends him a text message asking if Paul might allow God to stretch his new belief system by bringing these new Gentiles believers to a robust faith. Something which would have been utterly foreign to closed-minded Saul. Paul gets the opportunity to show his true colors.
Paul’s attitude and change reveals an hugely important concept for emotionally healthy spirituality.
• Be open-minded
What I don’t mean is to be blown about by any new idea that comes your way. You can still hold convictions and remain open-minded. Being open-minded means that you listen and hear the perspective of others.
Emotionally immature people don’t do this. They feel threatened by new people and new ideas (though they don’t usually realize that they feel this way and are emotionally unaware). Because of this, emotionally mature spirituality also means the willingness to constantly grow and learn. Not only is one willing to listen to different perspective but one actually seeks them out. People who are insecure with themselves do not do this.
Emotionally healthy people who are comfortable with themselves are open to candid feedback, new perspectives, continuous learning, and self-development.
I argue that Saul was this way. He was right. They were wrong. They need to conform or literally be killed.
Being open-minded means that I am willing to listen to feedback (like through a mentor as we talked about last week) and might even seek it out. It means that I will truly listen to what you perceive to be inconsistencies or flaws whether in my character or beliefs. It means that I will seriously evaluate them and if needed will seek to change myself or even my beliefs.
I have had conversations with those who shared their own doubts and misgivings as to the divinity of Christ. I have listened to and read some of these arguments and seriously reflected on why I hold onto what I believe. And I have determined that following Jesus is not only logical but actually exemplifies the best way to live. What I have found is that most people the Jesus most people object most strongly is more the Jesus of a particular church or group and doesn’t seem to reflect the Jesus that I read about in the New Testament.
Paul became so open-minded that he willingly believed Barney that God was doing an incredible new work with those that he would have previously considered unredeemable: the Gentiles.