“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” (1 Timothy 6:3–5)
Commenting on my post about intolerance from Wednesday, Paul Smith reminded me
But to say that everyone holds every single one of their convictions in absolute purity is also a false statement. Some of our convictions are derived from a pure motivation to be correct – and sometimes a big paycheck and a chance to present the keynote lectures all across the nation are just as compelling, as are keeping peace with one’s relatives or trying to earn a seat at the elder’s table.
He’s right. That’s not an easy thing to judge, but there are people who hold certain views for improper motives… even if they may not be aware of it.
I guess I’d argue that in such matters we have to go with innocent until proven guilty. As I said on Wednesday: “every fellow believer deserves the benefit of the doubt.” I’m going to assume that people have good motives unless I’m shown otherwise.
That said, we do have to be aware that there will be wolves in sheep’s clothing. It’s not an easy balance to strike, but if I’m going to err, I want it to be on the side of grace.
Years ago I heard a saying that has served me well:
‘Tis better to trust someone who shouldn’t be trusted than to distrust someone who should be trusted.
I’ll be aware that wolves are out there. I’ll try and watch for them. But I’ll do my best to avoid crying wolf if the situation doesn’t warrant it.
As the years go by, I grow less and less tolerant toward the intolerant. Which, of course, slowly turns me into one of them.
To try and fight that process, I have to continually remind myself of some things. I’ll share a few. Hopefully that might help someone else deal with the same problem. And it will hold me publicly accountable.
I need to remember…
- that I’m wrong. About something. Or some things. I’m not perfect in my understanding. So I can’t expect others to be perfect.
- that I’ve changed my views over the years. Unless we’ve reached perfect understanding, we’re going to change. That should help me understand both those who haven’t made the same changes and those who have changed in ways that I haven’t.
- that I’ve exchanged some wrong views for right ones. If I haven’t changed over the years, then I haven’t grown.
- that I’ve exchanged some right views for wrong ones. Never intentionally, but I’m sure it’s happened.
- that nobody chooses to be wrong. People hold a position because they believe it to be true. Getting angry and accusing people of dishonesty isn’t helpful.
- that every fellow believer deserves the benefit of the doubt. I need to assume good motives and good intentions. I need to suppose that they are trying to please God.
- that only God will determine in the end who is His and who is not. My pronouncements toward others mean nothing. I can declare someone to be a Christian or not be a Christian, but in the end, that declaration will be meaningless. God gets the final say.
More could be added, but that should get some ideas rolling in my head and yours. Please offer further suggestions or necessary corrections.
What’s the difference between criticism and correction?
- Criticism seeks to tear down; correction seeks to build up.
- The one criticizing feels some pleasure in saying what they say; the one correcting only finds pleasure in helping their friend change for the better.
- Criticism is often a habitual thing. Correction is only done when necessary.
- Critics often rush to offer their opinions. Those seeking to correct usually do so with some reluctance.
What would you add?
I was writing a bit about correction in the church and was trying to think of people who do it well. I’ve known a few.
I’ll confess that it’s tough for me. I tend to err on the side of “it’s none of my business” unless somebody else is being affected.
Suggestions? Examples? What can we do to improve in this area?