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In the 2016 election, Donald Trump repeatedly promised that he would keep our country out of needless wars in which we stand to gain nothing. He frequently cited the conflict in Syria as a good example of such battles. However, his actions since taking office, highlighted by the downing of a Syrian fighter jet and drone earlier this week, have led many to assume he has broken that promise. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
While it’s popular and necessary to talk about foreign affairs leading up to an election, no one outside of a select few in the Pentagon and the president of the United States fully understand all those conflicts entail. If (and I say if because only those select few know if this is the case) the president has changed his strategy on Syria from the campaign because of new information he has since learned, then good for him. Whether history proves his current plan correct or not, it would be a mistake to let past promises based on incomplete knowledge or outdated facts prevent a better choice from being made in the present.
Too often politicians feel bound by past promises and refuse to make better decisions in light of new knowledge. The fear of pushback from their supporters limits their ability to help those very same people. That’s not to minimize the importance of keeping one’s word, as Scripture is clear that our yes should be yes and our no should be no (Matthew 5:37). But promises made in ignorance should not prevent us from making the better choice when new information is presented.
That’s true for politicians and for the rest of us as well. Our preconceived notions of what’s true and false often prevent us from accepting new information that might challenge those beliefs. Life just seems simpler when we can be confident in what we know and move on with our lives. However, this side of heaven, things will seldom work that way. Rarely does a situation occur in which we know all that we possibly can about a subject, and that’s true of our faith as well. The inability to consider new thoughts in that area of our lives is perhaps the biggest detriment to a thriving relationship with the Lord.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we should be waves tossed around by every new idea that comes our way (James 1:6). When James warned the early Christians about that tendency, he referred to those who allowed circumstances and trials to make them doubt the validity of their faith, not those who considered new information or attempted to see life from a different perspective. Rather, we should stand firm in the core principles of who Scripture has revealed God to be and, from that solid rock, test new information that comes our way against the truth of his word without feeling threatened simply because it’s different.
Aristotle once quipped, “It is the mark of an educated man to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” I think the mark of a faithful Christian is often much the same. It is a grave and dangerous mistake to think that our finite minds know everything there is to know about the infinite God of the universe. Much of the heresy that led otherwise faithful believers away from the Lord found its origins in just such a mistake.
So the next time you’re presented with something that challenges your beliefs, be it those about God or any other subject, don’t make the mistake of simply dismissing it because it’s different. Rather, test it against God’s word and the principles found therein to see if, perhaps, there’s some validity to those new ideas. My hope is that President Trump did just that in changing course on Syria, but my even greater hope is that I would be willing to do the same when warranted. Will you?