the weblog of Alan Knox

Grace to be wrong…

Posted by on Jun 6, 2007 in discipleship | 7 comments

I’m wrong. There are things that I believe with the utmost confidence, but some of these beliefs are wrong. How do I know that I’m wrong? Because I’m not perfect. I may be wrong in some of my beliefs about God. I may be wrong in some of my beliefs about the church. I may be wrong in some my beliefs about other people. I may be wrong about what it means to be mature. I may be wrong about what it means to be wrong. I don’t know exactly what points of my beliefs are wrong, but I know that some of them are wrong.

Paul told the Philippians that he wanted to know Christ and everything about Christ (Philippians 3:7-11). He wanted to share in Christ’s life, suffering, death, and resurrection. But, Paul also recognized that he was not “there” yet (Philippians 3:12-14). He was still on the journey toward knowing God – and knowing him more.

Paul also recognized that some of the people in Philippi were not as far along on their journey to know God more. He wanted them to know God, and so he spent time with them and wrote them a letter to help them know God. But, he recognized that the Philippians would not know God simply because Paul told them about God. They would only know God as God revealed himself to them. Thus, instead of forcing his knowledge about God on the Philippians, Paul recognized their need of God himself and his grace:

Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. (Philippians 3:15 ESV)

Perhaps there were some in Philippi who did know God as they should. Perhaps there were some in Philippi who cared more about their own desires than the desires of God. What was Paul’s answer to this problem? Paul taught them about God, then he trusted God to reveal this to them. Paul trusted God’s grace, even when he thought others were wrong. Yes, Paul stated his understanding about God very clearly – he taught. However, he did not trust his own teaching to change anyone. He trusted God’s grace.

Paul knew (as he had told the Philippians earlier in the letter) that despite his own actions in teaching and modeling the life of Christ, it was God himself who worked in the Philippians to make them into the people that God wanted them to be. (Philippians 2:12-13) Thus, unless Paul wanted to try to usurp the authority and power of God, he had to trust God to change people. Paul had to trust God’s grace.

This is very difficult. This means that we have to allow people to be wrong. Do we state what we believe to be true? Yes. Do we show evidence from Scripture? Yes. Do we continue to browbeat someone to get them to agree with us? No. Do we attempt to force them to agree based on our position or maturity? No. Do we stop associating with them because they do not agree? No. Why? Grace.

When I look back on my life, I can see how much God has taught me by his Spirit. I can remember times where I held firmly to a position that God later showed me was incorrect. I can remember times when my feelings, emotions, or habits ruled me more than the Spirit of God. But God worked in me according to his will.

I have had teachers who taught really great things about God, but the teachers did not change me. I have read books that explained God and his ways, but the books did not change me. I’ve been in relationships with people who followed God, but even those relationships did not change me. God changed me – and he is continuing to change me.

Now, I should offer others the same grace – the grace to be changed by God, which includes the grace to be wrong. I must be willing to accept someone even when that person doesn’t agree with me, and trust God to change them. And, to prevent myself from becoming proud, I must also admit that God may be working to change me, and not them.

God loves us, and he pours out his grace on us, even when we are wrong. We demonstrate the character of God – Christ-likeness – when we love others and offer them grace when we think they are wrong.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 6-7-2007

    Excellent post, Alan! When confronted with a differing view it seems too easy to assume that the other person must be wrong. Why do we not begin with ourselves? I think that it might be tied to what/who our trust is in. If our trust is in our doctrine/belief system we will tend to become defensive when someone presents a view different from our own. Our instinct will be to defend our view even to the point of transgressing the fruit of the Spirit. We feel we have to for our very identity is on the line. However, if our trust is in Jesus, we can humbly begin by examining our own beliefs realizing that our faith is not a “house of cards” that can be toppled by removing any little pet doctrine. Our hope should be built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Thanks for the insight, Alan!

  2. 6-7-2007

    Thanks Alan for another excellent post!

    I have recently been thinking along these same lines. It’s weird sometimes how much we think alike.

    Even though I hold to Reformed theology, I know for certain that I do not have all the answers. Thank the Lord that He made it clear how others will know that we are His followers: by our love.

    Thanks for being so humble.

    In Christ, Eric

  3. 6-7-2007

    Sometimes I think part of the problem is that we find our identity in the beliefs that we have. It’s then hard to admit error and change if our identity is tied up in certain beliefs. Likewise, it’s hard to give grace to others if we think they may be wrong because; it’s very threatening if they don’t believe as we do.

    I’m starting to see people as a son or daughter of God instead of as a set of beliefs. It really changes my perspective.

  4. 6-7-2007

    oops – take out that silly semi-colon after “because.”

  5. 6-7-2007

    Here’s something that seems inexplicable to me… the desire to separate from those who believe differently than we do about some matters but whom we believe to be brothers/sisters in Christ. If we truly believe we are so right, why would we want to leave them separate from us? 🙂 I just don’t get the current climate of certain denominational politics.

  6. 6-7-2007


    Wouldn’t it be awesome if, instead of defending our view, we began to defend our unity in Christ and to defend our brothers and sisters in Christ? I think it would be easier to do that if we rested on our identity in Christ, as you said.


    It is a compliment for you to say that we think alike. Thank you. I think it is good for us to know what we believe, as long as we don’t let our differences with others get in the way of our love for God and for them. Thank you for that reminder!


    I was going to chastise you for using wrong punctuation, but I guess that would go against the point of this post. You said: “I’m starting to see people as a son or daughter of God instead of as a set of beliefs.” I think many things would change if we all thought like this.


    I try to stay out of denominational politics. I agree with you that I am sometimes stumped about why we choose to separate from one another when God has united us in Christ. It seems we are working against our reality in Christ instead of living in that reality.


  7. 11-1-2012

    Love has a name…it is Jesus

    “If I speak in human or angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

    If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

    If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

    Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

    It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

    Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

    It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    Love never fails.

    But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

    For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

    And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
    Paul of Tarsus


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