When Are U-Turns Right?

One of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s most memorable quotes is ‘You turn. The Lady’s not for turning!’ It was comments such as this that earned her the moniker ‘Iron Lady.’

Some may vacillate, hem and haw, or be wishy-washy about their views. But Good ole Margaret ruled her opinions and views with an iron fist and fierce determination. Once she formed an opinion, she was never to revisit it.

Admirable qualities, one might say. Indeed. However, what happens when an individual or group takes such a stance and later learns they were mistaken? We read in the news where technology has now proven that people who were convicted for committing crimes are now being exonerated. Unfortunately, what if their punishment was death? What do we do in those instances? Shrug our shoulders and say ‘ doesn’t matter, I’m not changing my mind?’

Unfortunately, human nature – that determination to be part of the ‘winning team’ encourages us to perceive people who change their minds as weak or as failures. And in some arenas there are those, who despite the evidence, continue to promote their own dogma, regardless of its inaccuracies and the toll it can take on others. It happens each and every Sunday when ministers misinterpret passages from the Bible, or use those passages, however inappropriately, to justify their points.

Whatever way you look at it, repentance, or making a moral or spiritual U-turn, isn't necessarily a sign of weakness. Indeed, in the right circumstances it can be a sign of true strength. Isn’t that the point of democracy versus, say, a dictatorship?

Just as with millions of others, I watched the debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin. They each had an agenda which prohibited the world from really seeing who they are. Nor, in my opinion, did they really do anything to help their presidential candidates.

All too often we expect our leaders to be godlike in their ability to know everything. Yet in most religions, doubt, discovery, and growth are parts of the very nature of being divine.

Take, for example, the humble pie that Jesus had to eat when a woman proved Him short sighted and limited in His vision of His ministry. The story is told in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark and involves a very persistent woman, who was not Jewish, but a Gentile.

She comes begging Jesus to heal her daughter, and receives the rather callous - and in fact, one could argue, narrow-minded - statement that He has come only for the people of Israel. Thus He tries to dismiss this woman.

But she is made of stern stuff and implores Him again asking Him to help her daughter. Jesus compounds His uncompromising stance on a matter of principle - which is probably how today's media would report it - and says even more brusquely, that it is unfair to take the food of the children (meaning the Jews) and throw it to the dogs (meaning the Gentiles)!

Now comes the moment of revelation. Jesus is once again confronted by the woman who says, ‘Ah yes, Lord, but even the dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall from their master's table.’

This is the point at which, were this being reported in some of our more aggressive newspapers, we would have the headline ‘Messiah does a U-Turn’ or ‘Jesus forced to compromise.’ Because Jesus, clearly humbled by this, is suddenly presented with a far bigger picture of what He is here to do. His limited vision is expanded to encompass all people and He heals her daughter. In other words He changes His mind and grows.

Perhaps this message has been too simplistic for us to pick up on it time after time. Perhaps the Apostles are trying to tell us that uncertainty and growth are completely acceptable and part of our own spiritual growth. Perhaps, through these words, they are encouraging us to grow and not become transfixed in our own interpretation of the Bible and the world around us.

If making U-turns, uncertainty, compromise, expanding one’s vision, and changing attitudes is good enough for Christ, then perhaps it ought to be good enough for the rest of us. Instead of seeing a change of mind as a weakness, perhaps we can see it as being just a little bit divine and more Christ-like instead



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