One of the professors from my seminary, Dr. Steve Harper, penned a thoughtful quote a few weeks ago that I keep thinking about. He wrote, “Narrowmindedness is the reduction of life until it is so small all you can see is yourself. And in that tiny world, you can justify whatever you say or do.” For me, Dr. Harper’s quote calls to mind Jesus’ frequent sparring with the scribes and Pharisees, whose old, worn narratives Jesus sought to disrupt with his telling of parables. Those parables were stories designed to interrupt the narrow places that the natural mind would go, those well-worn tracts that upheld the status quo and old prejudices that were so antithetical to the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom that Jesus came to announce. One good example is the Parable of the Good Samaritan. You know the old story, which Jesus tells to a scribe: A man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho is robbed and beaten within an inch of his life. Both a priest and a Levite, two folks who should have known about God’s law of compassion, passed by the injured man. But then a Samaritan, one considered to be low class and of mixed race, stopped and went above and beyond in his rendering of aid. Jesus countered the narrowmindedness of the scribe’s prejudice in this parable as he drew a contrast between those who knew the law and those who actually put it into practice.
One of the things that Jesus frequently did was cause people to step back and look at their own attitudes and behavior in deeper ways. We all need to examine our well-worn attitudes and perceptions with more objectivity. I wonder if we can use this on-going time of quarantine to cultivate deeper self-awareness so that we might come closer to seeing the world as God would have us see it. One way to do this is to revisit the parables in the Gospels and ask ourselves, “How is this story jolting me out of my narrowmindedness? How is this story changing my usual thought patterns and moving me on to a larger world?” May the time we spend be enlightening and fruitful.