As you think, so you are
In 1902 James Allen wrote a little book that has become a classic. His book was titled As a Man Thinketh, and it is taken from thoughts in the book of Proverbs, namely, Proverbs 23:7. In the context that reads, “Do not eat the bread of a selfish man, or desire his delicacies; for as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, “Eat and drink!” But his heart is not with you.” In the Bible the context makes it clear that the question of how one thinks is directed at another person, but Allen's book applies the proverb to the way one's own thinking goes. The proverb draws people to consider the thinking of others; Allen draws people to consider their own thinking, but both challenge people to consider thinking.
Consider three ways of thinking: (1) small to large, (2) rigid to flexible, and (3) simple to complex. Sometimes these categories are thrown around and used to tar others. For instance, fundamentalists are usually demeaned for being small-minded, rigid, and simplistic in contrast to “educated” people who focus on the important things in life and to approach living with flexibility and appreciation for complexity.
Cognitive therapy is built on the belief that Allen and the book of Proverbs were correct: how a person thinks leads to how he or she feels and what he or she decides to do, and all those things together constitute the being of the person in question — who he or she really is. Thus, in therapy, when people are troubled and experience life as unrewarding, the therapist goes to the content of the client's thinking and deals largely with the logical errors and faulty conclusions that the client creates for him or herself. This is very similar to the hermeneutic phenomenology behind gestalt therapy. Hermeneutics is the study of the rules of interpretation, regardless of what the field is in which it takes place; thus, it is possible to interpret scripture, but it is also possible to interpret meaning from one's experience.
Take, for example, the issue of how Christians ought to deal with homosexuality. It's not really how to view the construct of homosexuality, but how to relate to gay people. Or can you really separate the two? If “it” is wrong, then “they” are wrong. Right? If they are wrong, then how should Christian people relate to them? Are Christian people fated to correct every wrong? The Bible claims that all have sinned and exist in a fallen state before a holy God. Correcting wrongs could take up all one's time, and then one would not have any time left over in which to correct anybody else's wrongs.
When it comes to the Christian response to homosexuality and gay people it helps to have the big picture, be more flexible, and understand the complexity of the situation.
In the big picture Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save it. He told the woman caught in adultery not to sin anymore, but that he did not condemn her.
Another way of saying that one is flexible is to say that the membrane around his or her little world is permeable. It lets in fresh air and new water so that the person can thrive, and the person is able to assimilate difference (for what is fresh and new is different from what is stale and set). This is not to say that believing the Bible makes one stale; it is to say that there are always new insights one can get from reading the Bible, and the logic in one's interpretations ought always to be open to differing perspectives — to at least contemplate how others see passages in question. I started out with a covenant theology, moved to a dispensational theology, and then to a modified dispensational theology, and along the way I began to see the simplicities in much of the evangelical church — what I have called “formula Christianity.”
God, the world, the church, Christianity, the Christian life, spirituality, worship, revelation, interpretation, the leading of the Holy Spirit, love, service, and self-sacrifice are all WAY more complex than the usual stuff one finds in formula Christianity. I have been saved from the tyranny of small ideas, the confinement of rigidity, and the trance of simplistic thinking. I have been given a relationship with a divine Being Who transcends all my ways of knowing and confounds my every formula.
So, when it comes to homosexuality and gay people, the big idea that guides me is grace. Grace is undeserved favour. The liar does not deserve to be trusted, and perhaps you don't trust him, because that would not be wise, but perhaps you give him another chance, a chance to redeem himself in your eyes. With gay people perhaps you grant enough favour to relate to them as human beings.
When it comes to homosexuality and gay people, I have become open to hearing their stories, listening to their arguments and even their interpretations of the Bible. My wife and I have endured their anger, an anger that has come out of years of feeling tormented by the church. We in the west like to suck our teeth at the atrocities of radical muslims in other places who stone women for adultery, but whether you throw a literal stone or a relational stone, you wound the person who is the target of your wrath.
When it comes to homosexuality and gay people I have realised the situation is complex. There are people in the world born with both male and female genitalia. There are people born with an inner sense of being female but who live in male bodies. There are people who are born with an attraction to the same sex. Why would God do that and then condemn it? If we all were fearfully and wonderfully made and if God has personally formed us in our mothers' wombs, then why does God condemn some of us for the way we are made? It is a reasonable question. The discussion of this goes beyond the space in this column.
Suffice it to say that as a person thinks, so is he. As a person thinks, so is she. Think large, be flexible, and appreciate the complexity of God's creation.
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