The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. --James 3:17-18 (ESV)
The word translated here with the phrase 'open to reason' is eupeithes, which denotes an instinct to yield, a gentle willingness to defer, an inclination to receive the opinion of another (woodenly translating the prefix-plus-root you might say 'well-persuadable'). 'Open to reason' is a good translation.
At age 32 I don't think I've ever stopped and pondered that phrase till reading James this week.
I want to be wise with wisdom from above. The Bible says: part of that is being what James calls eupeithes.
Let’s be clear—open to reason is not equivalent to spineless. Conviction can happily coexist with reasonableness. James himself was obviously a man of deep convictions.
But there are two ways to have conviction—closed-to-reason conviction and open-to-reason conviction. The first filters all discourse through the assumption of virtual inability to err. It parades itself as conviction but is actually stubbornness. It projects security to cover up insecurity. Way down deep, it is actually less sure of its convictions, because they have never been made vulnerable to scrutiny.
The second operates with a healthy self-suspicion. Not perpetual self-doubt, but appropriate self-suspicion. It sees itself as prone to the same mistakes others make. Its internal security allows for genuine, give-and-take dialogue that sincerely entertains the possibility of personal error. Way down deep, it is more sure of its convictions, because these beliefs have been genuinely tried and tested.
I want to learn more of this in weeks ahead. Will you join me? Open to reason. Ready to jump at the chance to yield. Getting the impulse to defer to other brothers so built into us that it actually gets down to reflex level. It is the path of humility, and ultimately will yield more confident convictions than otherwise. It is the path of the Savior, who humbled himself with the ultimate yielding.
Which brings us to the fundamental resource by which we can learn, in fresh ways in 2011, to be 'open to reason': the gospel.
For in the gospel of grace God comes to us and says: You've been wrong. In the most important way, the most radically rebellious way, you have been wrong. And God did not respond to us with stubbornness simply because he was 'right,' though he was. Rather, he opened himself up to us in mercy. He 'reasoned' with us (Isa 1:18).
How? By becoming one of us. There's one person who walked this earth who was not wrong. Never. He had no reason to be well-persuadable, because he was always right. And he was put on a cross as if he had been horribly wrong.
God was open to reason with us. Won't we be open to reason with others?