It is so so easy to let our opinions become our faith. What I mean is that we can get so attached to a particular view, doctrine, or opinion that to challenge it would be to challenge our faith in Jesus Himself.
Several years ago, had you challenged me on my previously-held view of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (or lack thereof) I would have felt personally attacked. This is because I did not make a distinction between my interpretation of Scripture and Scripture itself.
While I was still in this mindset, I reached different conclusions than my home congregation. I stood on my convictions and ended up going one year before preaching for an established congregation again.
During this time, I was bitter, hurt, and understandably angry, but a lot of my frustration came from conflating my opinions and Scripture. Now, of course I believe I am “right” and believe what is “true,” but when I begin demanding that others see as I see and believe what I believe, then I have gone a step too far. People who disagreed with me “weren’t being honest” with the Scriptures, but now I’ve learned an important lesson that I wish I could share with every person stuck in this mindset. It’s one that, as usual, comes from my good friend Dallas Burdette.
We’ll be talking about some author, preacher, or scholar, and Dallas will pause and say, “Well I think she’s off on [XYZ], but, you know, she just hasn’t been exposed to the things you and I have, but she’s still a Christian.”
In other words, not everyone has our background, our education, or even defines terms the way we do or asks the Bible the questions that we do.
But before I learned this, I needed other people to be wrong. I needed to be right. Because if I’m mistaken in some way, or if I’ve got something wrong, or my math was a little off, then I threw away everything for nothing.
When I see some of my friends speaking harshly of others, calling names, or being rude, part of me cringes, but another part of me has compassion because I totally relate to the hurt, the passion, the trauma, and the confidence they have.
Some call me weak because I do not speak out as I once did, but, to me, it actually takes more strength to be patient, tolerant, and understanding of other people’s positions. My ego sometimes gets in the way and bugs me to say something, but as I’ve had to learn from another friend who has been at the same congregation since before I was born: “As a preacher, we need to learn to give people the last word. This shows them that we are listening and that we respect their opinion. They don’t have to agree with us just because we are the minister.”
Admitting that I’m fallible, that I could be wrong and that I am open to correction is very hard for someone with my ancestry to do, but it is a spirit that I believe is necessary for Christian unity, which was among the last things Jesus prayed for before He died.
Now, I believe that unity is found in Truth. But Truth isn’t a set of propositions, beliefs, or dogmas. He has a name: Jesus.
I no longer need you to be wrong. I’m okay with changing my mind. And I don’t feel personally attacked when my beliefs are questioned.
Okay, I’m totally fibbing. I do feel these things sometimes (well, a lot of the time), but I’m working on it, okay? Pobody’s nerfect after all.
One last thought. Jesus told His disciples, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12). Were these things true? Of course, but it turns out that just because something is truth, good, and from God does not mean that it is what a person or congregation needs in the moment.
I’m trying to be more like Jesus who understood this piece of wisdom instead of being like Daniel and fire hosing his opinions at anyone who will listen (or won’t listen).
May we all grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord together. For a large part of my life, I grew in knowledge but forgot about the grace. Lord, help us in this goal!