Flip Flops . . . and not the kind you wear on your feet!

30 04 2015

In 1933, when Franklin Roosevelt was elected to the Presidency of the United States of America, he was staunchly opposed to American involvement in the conflict taking place in Europe. And that stance was maintained through his 1940 campaign for reelection. But as the war progressed, the world changed; and as a result, when the conflict made its way to Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt changed his mind and America became involved in WWII in a big way!

At the 1988 Republican National Convention, George H. W. Bush boldly declared that an America under his watch would have “no new taxes.” But two years later, in an attempt to compromise and work with Democrats on a budget, he too changed his mind, and taxes were raised.

In 2003 (yes 2003!) Bob Jones University finally changed its mind, dropping its ban on interracial dating; and over the past 20 years, Americans have changed their mind on gay marriage, with support more than doubling, up from 26% in 1995, to 56% in 2015 (Gallup).

People change their minds all the time. All of us do. I once loved a good t-bone, medium rare – but today, I can’t remember the last time I had a steak! In college, my fraternity brothers and I used to “pie” students at Georgetown (use your imagination!) – but today, all I want to do with pie is eat it! In the 1980s I joined the Young Republicans, and ate jelly beans in honor of my favorite Republican President – but today . . . well, the only thing I believe trickles down . . . is water, when it rains! Hey, when I was 8 years old I used to dress up in my grandmother’s scarves and high heels – but look at me today. I haven’t worn heels since platform shoes were the style in the 1970s.

Change is not a bad thing. Flip flopping is not a bad thing. We grow. We mature. And whether we like it or not, life changes us. Circumstances change us. I have changed in all kinds of ways, and nowhere is this more obvious, than in matters of God and faith.

Whether talking about the virgin birth or Jesus’ bodily resurrection, Biblical infallibility or limited atonement, abortion or gay marriage, my perspective today is nothing like it was 20 years ago. Many pastors are able to pull old sermons “out of the barrel” as they say, but my barrel is full of thoughts and ideas that I wouldn’t dare utter ever again. Which brings me to the pint of this blog.

While I love ministry today as much as I ever have, some of my fondest memories in the church involve times spent with the ‘kids’ in the youth group of the very first congregation I ever served. Today, they are no longer kids; but that is how I still remember them. I follow many of them on Facebook, remain interested in all that is going on in their lives, and continue to love them more than they know.

I still smile when I think of early morning Bible Studies at Donut Delight, retreats at Camp Donegal, spaghetti dinners, College Tours, “Sex on Sundays,” the sub-Hub, Fun in the Son, and . . . well, I could go on and on!

But sadly, not all of my memories cause me to smile. You see, when I think of some of the things I sought to teach those amazing young people, my heart breaks. It breaks because I now think that many of my teachings were downright wrong! I’ve flip flopped, on many of the issues that at one time were so important to me. And for that, this blog is simply an apology.

Many of those ‘now-adults’ have moved on, and grown in their thinking in spite of me; and to you, all I can say is “I’m sorry.” I was very young, and I was engaging in ministry the only way I knew how. So I hope you can remember the love I tried to show you and let go of the lessons I tried to teach you. Some of them were way off base, and I often grossly misrepresented the church and the Christ.

To those who have not moved on, let me simply encourage you allow yourself some room to question, wonder, and even doubt. Give yourself, your faith, and our God, a little room to breathe. Faith is ultimately about so more much than belief in the four spiritual laws, subscribing to some kind of rigid moral code in an attempt to make us more acceptable to God, or becoming so Christocentric in our theology that we forget the One to whom Jesus came to point us!

People change all the time. We flip flop on all kinds of things. And sometimes, perhaps often, change is good. At least if it’s change that is coming from God. For ours is God who is all about change! God is ALWAYS seeking to do a new thing; ALWAYS seeking to shed more light on issues that we are so sure we’ve figured out; ALWAYS seeking to move us onward and upward, becoming more loving, more gracious, and more like the one we call the Christ.

Following the examples of Presidents Roosevelt and Bush, Bob Jones University and the American public, let’s embrace change – particularly when it moves us to be more in line with the ways of Jesus and the will of God. Let’s not be afraid to flip flop on things; because sometimes, what was . . . what is . . . is downright wrong, and needs to change.



5 responses

30 04 2015
Nancy Quigley

Needed these words today.

30 04 2015

Great post

30 04 2015
Don Chudd

It takes a man strengthened by the Spirit to write these words. Well done.

30 04 2015
Sara Feldman

Nice, Bob. Next time we are near DC, don’t be surprised if we crash a sermon. We promise no college stories.

30 04 2015
Peggy Flannelly

Bob thanks for sharing this. I found it very powerful and so true. Hopefully, we are all continuing to grow and evolve in our walk of faith. Mike and I hope to get down to your church this summer. Take care, Peggy Flannelly

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