The Opened & Closed Hands

My bookshelves form a diverse neighborhood. A collection of writings from second century pastors ministering in Africa and Asia stands beside the work of a French mystic nun written in the sixteenth century. And next door to her live the words of a Mennonite professor still teaching today at an American seminary.


Each of these writers, if I could gather them for coffee at my kitchen table, would disagree on a myriad of topics. But they’d agree on an important few. For instance…

“…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-5



And so we Christians say there are some beliefs held in a “closed hand” and others in an “open hand.” We cling to the foundational closed-hand truths of our faith, which unify us across nationalities, denominations, and unique places in history. But we graciously and humbly learn and listen, debate and discuss, and often agree to disagree about the open-handed…which is everything else.

But sometimes…

Tempers flare and tongues assassinate. We say, “She can’t be one of us!” People are burned at the stake or bashed in blog posts. Beneath our most intense disagreements often lies a disagreement about how foundational, how essential to our faith, the matter that has us so red-faced truly is.

It’s probable that all of us have one thing (or dozens) in our closed hand that belongs in an open hand. Where do you place these?

  • Women should be allowed to serve as ministers in the local church.
  • God made the world in six twenty-four hour days and it’s no more than 6,000 years old.
  • Christians can watch rated R movies.
  • Homosexuality is a choice.
  • Jesus was a pacifist and you should be too.
  • Christians shouldn’t have credit cards, drive new cars or live in big houses.
  • Calvinism.
  • A divorced person must remain single forever.
  • Saturday is the real Sabbath.
  • Speaking in tongues doesn’t happen anymore.
  • A Christian doesn’t have to go to church.

I agree with a handful of these statements. I’m willing to grab some coffee, sit at the table and listen to those who agree with the rest. Maybe that’s you?

Before we make a date can we agree on one thing first? Nothing on this list belongs in a closed hand. Yours or mine.

Now, decaf or real coffee?