About three and a half years ago, I wrote this post called “Grace to be wrong.” I try to remember this whenever I think someone is wrong. I also try to remember that I may be the one that is wrong. God has changed my mind about many things. I must give God the space to change others as well… if he so chooses.
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.