God sometimes changes God’s mind

Dear colleagues,

When I was in high school, I served on the search committee for a new rector of my church. One part of that experience that I remember very well is the belief I deeply held then that the new rector of the church shouldn’t be too young. I can no longer tell you why I held this view but I remember rejecting a candidate on the grounds that this person just seemed “too young” to be a rector.

In the intervening decades, my mind has changed. I can’t pinpoint a moment at which this happened but I no longer assume that leadership ability or ministerial gifts are correlated with age. Ironically, people sometimes now say to me, “You’re young to be a college principal!” (I reply that this job doesn’t leave me feeling very young.)

A couple of weeks ago at Evening Prayer, we had a reminder of an aspect of God that is rarely discussed: God sometimes changes God’s mind. In the passage we read from Jonah, the king of Nineveh leads his people in repentance. Seeing this, the passage say, “God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them.” (3:10)

This is not the only time this happens. Moses convinces God to change God’s mind about punishing the people of Israel (Exodus 32:14). There is also the wonderful dialogue between Abraham and God in which Abraham bargains with God to prevent God from destroying Sodom (Genesis 18:22-33). It’s not just God, either; Jesus does this too. Jesus encounters a Canaanite woman who asks him to heal her daughter. After initially ignoring her, her provocative comments lead him to heal her daughter, something he had not apparently initially intended to do (Matthew 15:21-28).

The church changes its mind as well. Indeed, you could say that we are here today because early Christians changed their minds and came to understand that a person could follow Christ without following the Jewish dietary and customary law. It was a move that took divine intervention (Acts 10:9-16) and one we often take for granted today but we shouldn’t underestimate the significance of the change. Throughout history, the church has changed its mind on slavery, the labour movement, women in ministry, marriage, and much else. Paradoxically, it is these changes that have allowed Christians to stay faithful to the tradition they inherit while also coming to deeper understandings of Christ’s good news.

Changing our minds is a healthy, holy, and life-giving practice that is part of our ongoing growth and maturation in Christ. But in the midst of all the work and responsibilities of life, it can be difficult to pause for the longer view. So every once in a while, I encourage you to ask yourself this: what do I believe now that I didn’t a few weeks, months, or years ago? What belief that I once firmly held do I now move away from? It is in asking and answering these questions that we grow deeper into our walk with Christ.

Faithfully yours,

Jesse Zink



This message was written by College Principal Jesse Zink for this week’s Wingèd Ox, a weekly news digest distributed to the college community.