"Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house."
I wonder if you have heard of the mindset problem? Here is an example. Little Johnny was beside himself with joy when for his birthday he was given the pet tortoise he had set his heart on. At his birthday party, all his friends shared his excitement, albeit with just a tinge of envy. Oh how he loved his pet. Then, one day, Johnny went to feed it, but it would not come out of its shell. Next day, same no show. And the next and so on for what seemed like for ever. Heart broken, Johnny realised that the tortoise was no more. What to do? Well, the very least he could do was to give it a proper send off. He invited round all the friends who had been at his party. Together they constructed a ritual fit for a tortoise, chose a suitable resting place, dug a hole, and placed the lifeless shell on a red velour cushion. Johnny bore the cushion aloft as they set off in solemn procession down the garden. They got to the spot, put the cushion down for a few final words. And, yes, you’ve guessed, out popped the tortoise’s head. What a shock! ‘Now what do we do?’ asked a friend. ‘I know,’ said Johnny, ‘Let’s bury it anyway.’
That’s the mindset problem. You gather information, you make a plan, you do the preparation, you have a definite aim in view – and nothing is going to stop you. Your mind is set.
And it is a serious and persistent problem. Even Jesus comes up against it. Early on in his mission to bring healing, peace and love, he goes to his home town. There he goes into the synagogue and teaches with such wisdom that everyone is amazed. He restores some sick people to health.
The crowds can hardly believe their ears and their eyes. And this is where the mindset kicks in. ‘Wait a minute, we know this man. He grew up here. We know his family. He can’t possibly have become so wise, he can’t possibly be a real miracle worker. Must be a trick’ And so fixed and firm is this mindset that Jesus is unable to continue there with his mission of love, peace and healing. He and his friends leave home and move to places where minds may be more open.
So, how to get over the mindset problem? The first thing to say is, it isn’t easy. The great civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King once said ‘I do not believe that nonviolence will achieve miracles overnight. Men (yes, he did say men – he would be more inclusive today) are not easily moved from their mental ruts or purged of their prejudiced and irrational feelings.’ In today’s world the problem is often made worse by the way the internet is used. People log on to sites which reinforce and intensify their preferences and prejudices instead of challenging and purging them. Change will take time.
And changing minds is not just about booting out bad thinking, it is also about improving good old ideas and learning from new experience and teaching. This is the time of year in the church where new ministers are given authority by the bishop to take leading roles in the mission of the church. They are ordained. And usually ordained ministers do not go to their home town or village. Like Jesus’ friends, they go to unfamiliar places where they are not known. There they will bring different perspectives, new wisdom, fresh ideas to open the hearts and minds of the people so they can hear anew the wonderful news of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. They will bring enthusiasm, passion and love of God and of people, all of which, I pray, will reinvigorate those who already know and love the Lord Jesus, and will open the minds and hearts of those who do not yet have faith, so that they too may come to share in God’s healing, peace and love.
- How do you respond when you come across a new idea or fresh information or a different way of looking at things from your normal outlook on life?