Right and Wrong
“Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful.” – 1Corinthians 3:10
Right and Wrong
We’ve all been in some discussion which enters into disagreement and escalates into argument, or perhaps even a full-blown fight. We have, everyone of us, declared at one time or another in just such a situation that we know beyond any shadow of doubt that what we are saying is…right. But if we are honest we will admit that we have also had the dubious and deflating discovery that, well, no, despite our complete assurance of being correct we were actually…wrong.
It’s an odd feeling to be utterly convinced one is right – to know I am right – only to discover I am completely and fundamentally off beam, mistaken, incorrect, erroneous and wide of the mark! I remember the first time I faced such an experience with an open and honest heart. After one doozy of an argument with someone to whom I smugly felt intellectually superior, I learned afterward that I was fully mistaken. While I don’t remember the specific matter, I remember quite well my epiphany regarding my fallibility. That was one bitter pill to swallow.
The Dangerous Weight of Personal Theology
Consider a brick. A random brick in a wall. Let’s say our brick is about 4 or 5 rows up from the bottom. There are several rows of bricks above it. Our brick of choice is built on top of other bricks, resting its weight on them. All the bricks above it are built on the foundation provided by our brick. All their weight pushes downward on our brick.
This brick represents a single belief in your personal system of beliefs, your personal theology – what you believe about God and all things spiritual. There are beliefs our subject rests upon, and other beliefs that rest upon it. A great many of these bricks got placed through things you’ve heard throughout your life through a sermon here, a story there, personal views held by friends, common phrases spoken in Christian circles, an opinion formed while reading a Bible verse, popular beliefs that you were led to believe that all good Christians believed. Unfortunately, these beliefs aren’t all true.
It can be very healthy at some point to choose to examine our beliefs in light of some objectivity afforded by others who do not share our same beliefs. This can prove to be uncomfortable and even difficult, because we are accustomed to defending our dogma. We tend to avoid those who can provide piercing challenges that shake and rattle our beliefs. Hence the old saying, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Just look inside most churches.
A Formidable Predicament
When you hear something that calls into question some belief, represented by our brick, you are faced with a problem. You see, you have other beliefs resting on this belief. If this one is faulty, then it affects all that rests on it. If it’s the wrong size, shape, composite, etc., then there is a danger involved in removing it or exchanging it. And there are times that several of the bricks atop it may need to be removed as well. If you try to repair the single brick, the danger is that your structure begins to feel unstable and there is a danger of experiencing quite a bit of demolition. The deeper in the foundation that the brick lay, the more weight it bears and the more fragile the structure when tampering with it. Also, the deeper it sits, the more important that it be examined from time to time.
Consequently it can feel quite dangerous and threatening when some of our beliefs gets challenged. When we will not allow such challenges we end up clinging to dogma – a belief regarded as being unquestionably true. As Christ-followers who want to grow spiritually, we should place very few beliefs in the dogma category since to do so allows no room to admit mistakes about those beliefs. Our dogma bricks often become nearly impossible to even reach, let alone adjust.
This past week before our worship team rehearsal my wife, Cathy, led a group devotion on being teachable. What I write next is what I believe to be one of the single most important characteristics to all forms of growth in our inner lives – spiritual, emotional, cognitive, etc.
“To be teachable I must be willing to be wrong.”
To grow in Christ, to mature as a human being, I must be willing to be shown where I am wrong. The tricky aspect of all this is that if I’m not willing to be wrong, I’m not really willing to be right. Truth, like a great statue, is often formed in us as falsehood gets chiseled away. Some of us fight tenaciously to defend our “rightness,” withstanding every onslaught against our fortified immaturity and ignorance. When it comes to being right or wrong, the stakes are high and we generally have far too much riding on being right. Our fragile sense of intelligence and the self worth attached to it, our belief systems, some self-righteousness (typically unbeknownst to us), and worst of all – the paralyzing fear of feeling or appearing inferior to others, these all come to bear on our willingness to be proven wrong.
Enter the beautiful grace of spiritual humility… God has His ways of humbling us at key moments and seasons in our lives. One of the most freeing experiences of the human soul is when God blows away some dogma to which we’ve clung for years and defended at the cost of deepening of relationships or perhaps seeing some new light of insight. Some friends separate, some acquaintances never blossom into friendship, some families even splinter over dogmatic positions held against all possibility of being…wrong. Humility, on the other hand, can heal the barriers we build and the wars we wage. It is a corrective first step on the path to new adventures in spiritual growth in grace and the knowledge of God.
You know, it’s not as though we are very right to begin with and fall into being in error. We don’t begin in the light and only stumble occasionally into the dark. We begin our lives already engrossed in error and darkness, and the entire life of the follower of Jesus is one likened unto a light that shines brighter and brighter the farther we go. (Proverbs 4:18)
On the journey,
Mike Knapp, pastor
“Lord Jesus, help me be willing to be wrong, expand my capacity for humility, help me challenge my deeply held beliefs and dogma for the sake of knowing You, the truth. Chisel away the hard stone of error held in my heart so I may know you more fully and be more gracious toward others.”