Wineskins Archive

February 12, 2014

Reflective Openness (May-Jun 2002)

Filed under: — @ 12:42 pm and

By Al Maxey
May-June 2002

Dr. Peter M. Senge, in his work The Fifth Discipline, discusses several different types of openness, such as Participative, Operational, and Reflective. It is the latter that really attracted my attention. Reflective Openness is described as the capacity to continually challenge one’s own thinking. It is an openness to inward examination.


There is, unfortunately, a tendency among us humans to reach a point of self-satisfied and self-righteous closed-mindedness. At this point the reflective process is “out to lunch,” and often, as a result, so also are we! Paul’s charge “examine yourselves!” (II Cor. 13:5) is a broad-based one, and the nature of our faith and whether or not we are even in the faith are to an extent conditional upon our compliance. Genuine faith is not embraced, nor is it enhanced, by a closed mind. Those whose hearts and minds remain open, who are willing to continually challenge their own thinking and hold up their own convictions to the light of God’s Word, are those who will grow in faith. The rest will simply stagnate in the still pond of their carefully guarded dogmas.


Far too many deflect truth, because it’s incompatible with their own previously accepted beliefs, rather than reflect upon it. Such religious arrogance erects a shield of exclusivism that effectively blocks out all incoming challenges to its cherished conclusions. One’s perceptions, practices, and preferences become the standard by which all else and all others are measured. To dare to be either reflective or open is to risk being viewed with suspicion by those safely fortified behind the walls of their settled judgments.


Nowhere, however, does God suggest that His gracious revelation sounds the death knell to thought! Throughout His dealings with mankind, He has called us to reflection and meditation, which can only be truly beneficial when engaged in with open hearts and minds. When commissioning Joshua to lead His people across the Jordan and into the land of promise, the Lord God commanded him to take “this book of the law” and “meditate on it day and night” (Joshua 1:8). The Old Testament Psalms speak repeatedly of the value of meditation, but perhaps nowhere as beautifully as Psalm 119. “Oh how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day” (v. 97). Genuine reflection is an acknowledgment and manifestation of openness to change! We feast upon His Word in order to be transformed thereby. To devour the Scriptures for no other purpose than to “prove our point” or “enforce our practice” is to approach this feast already filled with our own fare, intent only upon a good “food fight!” We have already determined the nature and extent of truth to our own satisfaction. We are content. No other input is desired. Our task on earth is now to prove ourselves right and all others wrong… the glory of God! By not practicing Reflective Openness, we in effect deflect truth.


What would have become of Saul of Tarsus had he not practiced Reflective Openness during the seventy-two hours he was in Damascus following his encounter with the risen Savior? How many lives might have been adversely affected had Saul viewed Ananias as an apostate and his message as apostasy?!


What might have been written about the saints in the city of Berea had they not “received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11)? The text says they were more “noble-minded” than those in Thessalonica. Why? The latter were religiously bigoted, unwilling to listen to or reflect upon anything that went against their cherished perceptions. They were even willing to travel far and wide to inflict great harm upon those who were in “opposing religious camps.” Is it possible the Bereans were more noble-minded because they practiced Reflective Openness, rather than a dogmatic, self-righteous, closed-mindedness, which would have said, “Go away Paul, we’ve already got all the answers. We’re right, everyone else is wrong. We’re the only ones approved of God. Case closed!”


The Bereans did not believe themselves to be the sole possessors of all truth. They were constantly open to a better understanding of what God would have them to know, to do, and to be…..even if it meant radical change! They were practitioners of Reflective Openness! They were noble of mind because they were eager of mind. When Luke states that they “received the word with great eagerness,” he uses the Greek word prothumia which means “a readiness, willingness and eagerness of mind.” It denotes a disposition of mind that is free of prejudice and bias—an open mind! The Bereans had a prothumian spirit!


The truths that Paul presented were new to them and were a direct challenge to what they “had always been taught.” But, rather than shut their minds to the message and attack the messenger, they were willing to take his teachings to the standard of the Scriptures “to see whether these things were so.” As a result of their careful and prayerful study and their Reflective Openness, “many of them therefore believed” (v. 12).


It is a fact that truth has absolutely nothing to fear from close examination. The more it is scrutinized, the more its nature is confirmed. It seems our greatest fear is often that some of our cherished notions may have to be altered to conform with truth. But this is the purpose of self-examination and of challenging our own thinking. Another fear is that we may well be vilified by those unwilling to engage in such open and honest reflection upon the Word. Alexander Campbell wrote, “If I am not slandered and misrepresented, I shall be a most unworthy advocate of the cause which has always provoked the resentment of those who…..will not try to think and learn.” A willingness to reflect upon truth with an open mind and an eager heart has never been for the timid or fearful. It takes genuine courage, deep faith, and sincere commitment to expose ourselves and our convictions to the light of God’s inspired Word and to then conform to whatever truth is thereby revealed.


Like the countless spiritual worthies who have preceded us, may God grant unto each of us the courage, regardless of the cost, to embrace and employ this marvelous quality of Reflective Openness!

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