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Changing Our Minds About a Changing Climate

Image: Keegan Houser

Every morning, I follow the same routine. I drink a giant glass of water and the cup of coffee my husband prepares for me, I read passages of Scripture in my Bible app, I read a couple of daily meditations from religious folks I follow, I complete at least one exercise of French in Duolingo so I don’t lose my learning streak, and I scroll through my Facebook memories.

The day doesn’t really, truly begin until I’ve looked at my Facebook memories.

I’ve been on Facebook for over 15 years, and visiting with the musings of my 25-year-old self through Facebook memories that pop up each day is a lesson in humility. Oh, the mundane details I shared, including, nearly every day, just how tired I was. For instance, my status update on this day 13 years ago was “brrrrrrrr!” Fifteen years ago, it was “is cleaning.” 

Occasionally, though, I’ll come across an opinion I thought worthy of sharing with my circle of friends and family. 

And let me tell you, 25-year-old Sarah saw the world quite a bit differently than present-day Sarah.

It’s tempting to go back and delete some of the more embarrassing thoughts and notes I find in Facebook memories, but so far, I’ve resisted. I’ve kept those memories there because it is a reminder to me to hold my opinions and certainties loosely. It is a reminder to give myself and others grace for their journeys, space to learn new things, and time to change their minds.

It is not a sin to change your mind. 

As a follower of Christ, I should expect my mind to be changed, constantly. In Romans 12:2, Paul writes, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” 

Mind renewal and transformation takes time, like, a whole lifetime, which is why Paul also writes in Philippians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work among you will complete it by the day of Christ Jesus.”

If you’re looking for an example of this kind of journey in Scripture, I can think of hardly none better than Peter, that brash, excitable, emotional apostle in the gospels. The Peter we find in the gospels jumped at every chance to take charge, and then he split as soon as Jesus was in trouble. He’s humbled, time and time again, by the Lord. 

But this is all part of growing up in, being transformed by, and traveling with Jesus. 

Jesus tells Simon Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32 NIV). When you sift wheat, you need to really shake things up to get rid of the chaff, that inedible part of the grain.

Here’s what it looks like to sift wheat: 

This does not look fun to me. 

Looking back over the last fifteen years in both Facebook posts and in my regular life, I can see lots of places of sifting and searching, suffering and questioning. And I can see lots of times I’ve changed my mind. I learned more, and that knowledge changed my mind. I heard someone’s story, and that compassion changed my mind. I listened and I prayed, and that discipline changed my mind.

Let’s say you used to smirk at climate science and called environmentalists “tree huggers.” Let’s say you’re like me and you used to scoff at all those heathen atheist evolutionary biologists and the language of climatologists, but somewhere along the lines, things changed. You learned more. You heard someone’s story. You listened. You prayed. And maybe, like me, in obedience you changed your mind.

It’s okay to change your mind about issues like climate change.

We’re given a glimpse into who Peter was as a young apostle, in our gospels. And we’re also given a look at Peter as he matures. In Acts, Peter has a vision before he is summoned to the house of a Gentile, Cornelius. Peter tells the people of the house, “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean” (Acts 10:28). Then, Peter tells the gathering, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (Acts 10:34-35).

Peter changed his mind.

A changed mind isn’t a sign of weakness. It is a sign of willingness to be transformed more and more into the likeness of Christ. It is a sign of humility and wisdom. It takes fortitude and humility to admit that you might have been wrong, that now that you have more information, you have changed your viewpoint, and now you think differently. 

And it ought to be a part of everyone’s spiritual journey.

Looking back from my current vantage point, I am humbled by all of the times I was wrong and God lovingly and gently corrected my steps. I’m humbled by the ways Christ has been patient and kind while I fumbled and stumbled about, seeking his voice and doing my best to heed his words. If I’ve learned anything from all of that sifting, it’s that patience and kindness do wonders for the wanderer. 

Maybe I ought to extend that same mercy to other sojourners who are somewhere along the road and give them space to change their minds, too.

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