The First 15

Wednesday September 2, 2020

by First Methodist Mansfield

Non-Dual Thinking


Mark 8:34-35
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.


How comfortable are you with mystery? If you are like most of us in this 21st century, we don’t like mystery very much. We have been conditioned, since the enlightenment of the 18th century to depend on, and search for reason. Reason was not a new concept in the 1700’s, but it took the spotlight over previously held ways of knowing such as spiritual revelation, experience, and inherent wisdom. Science moved into the forefront of thought, and became the primary way to find truth. Since that time, we live in a world that demands proof of every possible reality. This leaves us in a realm of dual thinking. Either something is true or false, real or imagined, right or wrong. And while there are a few instances where dualism may be warranted, as Christians we live in a world that is full of paradox, mystery, and “both/and” thinking.

For example, a few of the basic tenants of our faith are God as Trinity: three persons in one God; and Jesus as fully human and fully divine at the same time. These are seeming contradictions and utter mystery. They don’t make sense to the logical, dualistic, either/or mind. These beliefs are only understood through non-dual, both/and sort of reflection, through truths found in the non-dual heart and soul.

Here are some other both/and examples from the scriptures:

  • Finding is losing; losing is finding (Luke 17:33).
  • The wise and learned do not understand; but children do (Matthew 11:25).
  • The poor are rich (Matthew 5:3); the rich are poor (Mark 10:17-25).
  • The last will be first; the first will be last. (Matthew 20:16)
  • Whoever saves their life will lose it; whoever loses their life will save it. (Mark 8:35).
  • To be foolish is wisdom; to be wise is ignorance (1 Corinthians 1:18-27).
  • Weakness is strength; strength is weakness (1 Corinthians 1:18-27; 2 Corinthians 12:10; 13:9).

These teachings seem like contradictions, but when you hold them both together, when you hold them at the level of your lived experience, not in the reason-oriented head, you find the truth that lives in the middle of either/or. When we open ourselves to both/and thinking, when we allow ourselves to think, “I don’t fully understand this, but that’s OK” we can allow ourselves to be transformed at the deepest levels. Truth is not always found in black and white. Spiritual truth is hardly ever found there. As people of faith, followers of the both human and divine Jesus, we live in the creative tension of the both/and mystery. Faith is held together by grace, heart and soul, never by logic alone. Allow yourself to sit in that tension today. Embrace the mystery of God, and watch your faith expand exponentially.

Which of the paradoxical teachings above are hard for you to wrap your brain around? What truths do you know but find them hard to define in either or categories?

Prayer for Today

Lord, you reveal yourself to us in the mystery of love and grace. You show us glimpses of what your kingdom is like, and we are grateful to play a part in bringing that kingdom to earth. Show us the way, speak truth to our soul, let us relish the mystery of you, God. Let us be your servants, losing our life in order to gain true life in you. Thank you for being big enough for our doubts, questions and unbelief. We trust you, Lord. We love you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The First 15

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