Footprints daily reflection: 20 March
Does 'God change his mind?'
Author: Michael Burrows
God is not a mortal, that he should change his mind’
When I was quite young, I used to worry about whether God could change his mind about some decision or action he had taken. I found the thought that he might change his mind rather comforting, yet familiar phrases in the Prayer Book like 'thy eternal changelessness' rather perturbed me.
The Biblical writers seem to agonise somewhat over this conundrum too. In today's passage, God appears determined not to change his mind about the fate of the unsatisfactory King Saul; it is not in his nature to recant or to go back on his word. And yet just a little later on (v 35) we hear that God regretted having made Saul king in the first place - he seems to have altered his view about the choice he initially made.
The little book of Jonah is even more comforting about divine mind-changing... to the annoyance of Jonah God explicitly 'changes his mind' (Jonah 3.10) about the fate of Nineveh in the light of the repentance of the city.
I like the idea of God changing his mind because it allows us, made as we are in the divine image, honourably to change our minds too. To change one's mind is not fickle or shallow, evidence that one lives at the whim of fashionable opinion - rather it can be an opportunity to experience and to share divine grace.
What strongly held belief or principle might God be asking me to change my mind about in my everyday life? After all the church itself has over the years experienced godly mind - changing over issues like the ordination of women. And, if I have the humility and grace to change my mind occasionally, I'm entitled to pray that others may be inspired to change their minds too. There are a number of very powerful people in the world who might change their minds about the reality of climate change ...urgently and for God's sake.
O changeless yet mind-changing God
Help me in striving to live in your image
To discern when it is just and honourable to change my mind
And when it is right to pray that others might change their minds too.
Michael Burrows has been bishop of Cashel Ferns and Ossory since 2006 and retains a keen interest in World Development and Global Justice issues as a former Chair of Bishops' Appeal and a former Board member of Christian Aid Ireland