the weblog of Alan Knox

Grace to be wrong

Posted by on Dec 4, 2009 in discipleship | 9 comments

Two and half years ago, a published a post called “Grace to be wrong.” I know that I’m wrong about many of the things that I believe about God. (Of course, I don’t know what those things are.) I’m learning not to trust my understanding [of God] as much as I trust God himself. (That’s a difficult lesson.) I also want grace from others when I’m wrong… but am I willing to offer the same grace when I think they are wrong?

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Grace to be wrong

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.


9 Comments

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

  1. 12-4-2009

    Alan,

    Man… I am starting to learn this everyday. I have one thing right, one thing I know for 100% that is that I am wrong on a lot of stuff, the fact that I don’t agree with myself a few months back proves that I am wrong 8)

    Jesus says “when the Spirit comes…..” I think most of us want people to change so that we can be comfortable, not so they can love God better. We want an assembly line, with everyone believing like us, that is why we write doctrinal statements and have new memebers classes, so people can learn OUR way of doing things. However, Jesus and His apostles often times had a wreckless dependency on the Spirit when it came to others. To conformity promised in Romans 8 is taken way too lightly, the promise Paul made to Philippians is taken way too lightly and the promise Jesus Himself made in John is taken way too lightly. Again I think we are uncomfortable with people believing differently than us, more than God is uncomfortable and since that person is God’s servant we should let His/Her Master fix them and we love them.

  2. 12-4-2009

    Alan,

    One of the characteristics that keep me reading your writings is the grace you exhibit.

    You said, “I’m learning not to trust my understanding [of God] as much as I trust God himself. (That’s a difficult lesson.) ”

    It IS a difficult lesson which I’m still learning, even though I’ve reached the psalmist’s allotted three score years and ten.

    Our security is often in the knowledge about God that we think we have accumulated. Maybe that’s because we cannot know God apart from knowing His Son through whom He is revealed!

  3. 12-4-2009

    Lionel and Aussie John,

    Thanks for the comments. We’ll all keep learning together. And, based on Aussie John’s comment, we’ll still be learning this lesson throughout our life.

    -Alan

  4. 12-4-2009

    I was trying to arrive by the time I was your age Alan, that is very far off so I might just make it 8)

  5. 12-4-2009

    Alan-

    Amen.

    Lionel-

    Amen.

    Aussiejohn-

    Amen.

    Alan-

    Amen.

    Lionel-

    Amen. Wait…Alan’s only a few years older than me, I saw the acid washed jeans with my own eyes.

  6. 12-4-2009

    Reading these posts gave me a chuckle and warmed my heart. Praise the Lord!

  7. 12-4-2009

    Lionel,

    Keep wishing and praying… both on the age and on “making it”… :)

    Hutch,

    Amen… and acid washed jeans will come back into fashion any day now. I just wish I could still wear that pair of jeans that you saw in the pic.

    Marisa,

    Thanks for reading and warming our hearts.

    -Alan

  8. 12-7-2009

    Alan, wonderful post.

    I just finished some research in the field of cognitive neuroscience and the authors essentially came to the same conclusion. Love is the willingness to stay in relationship regardless of the reality that we get some of it wrong.

  9. 12-7-2009

    Jonathan,

    That’s very interesting. Thanks for sharing about that research.

    -Alan