Having to be right all the time on every matter comes with a kind of burden that will often hinder our mission and witness. The need to be right all the time also silences fruitful dialogue across ethnic, cultural, and even generational bounds. Ultimately, in the name of being right catholicity takes a back seat. Of course, there are several first order doctrines that must be preserved and be the basis of our unity and fellowship with one another. These are doctrines that are as black and white as the words and pages in our Bibles (The virgin birth; the deity of Christ; the Triune nature of God; and the sanctity of human life) just to name a few.
But what about the gray? These spaces can be fertile soil to grow in fellowship and love for one another but often become the places we draw divisive lines and choose to make war against each other. And for what?
Nobody is going to get everything right all the time. As the church, our aim is not to be right on all things, in all the times. Rather, the Bible calls us to three pursuits of greater value.
First, the Scriptures call for renewal (Romans 12:1), and that comes with rewiring the way we think about everything in life. This is a life-long process that involves learning and working out our salvation in a way that looks more like the image of the Son (Philippians 2:12). When the body of Christ begins to buy into labels and categories of thought produced by the media and culture and adopt them as theological dogmas, it stunts our growth “to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). Labels, and the creeds that come with them, are another way of abandoning the pursuit of being transformed by the renewal of the mind. Labels have too long held the church captive by their vain philosophies and empty deceit (Colossians 2:8). Neither labels nor worldly ideologies require renewal or transformation. None of them require humility. And none of them bring life. They simply offer an unbalanced formula to conform to that creates a deeper divide within the church, as well as the culture at large.
We should embrace the possibility of being wrong and renewed rather than continue to pursue being “right” and wither away. We should embrace the doctrine of human fallibility not only in speech but in practice, as well. If the church is going to embrace renewal, we must embrace the truth that we, as fallible human beings, will be in constant need of a reformation and renewal by the Spirit and the word of God. Often, saying “I was wrong” is part of that process.
Second, Scripture calls for reasonableness. Both James and the Apostle Paul call the churches to let their reasonableness be made known, and that the wisdom from above is both gentle and “open to reason.” (James 3:17; Philippians 4:5). Notice in both passages reasonableness is closely tied to gentleness. Oftentimes a commitment to being right all the time comes at a price, and that price is reasonableness and gentleness. Isolating ourselves in the echo chambers of voices who only say the things we want to hear and what we already believe to be true is the kind of environment where reasonableness inevitably dies. When any outside voice attempts to speak, it is considered foreign and threatening to the world that we have created and boxed ourselves into.
Living and camping out in our theological and political echo chambers causes our hearts and minds to become something different than what God has intended for His people. To borrow from C.S. Lewis, it will become, “safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will become unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable.” This, of course, is in stark contrast to the heart being like a stream of water in the hand of the Lord (Proverbs 21:1).
Finally, the Bible calls for reconciliation. First to God, and then to one another. “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18) Paul is saying that reconciliation belongs to the church. Notice, “And gave us the ministry of reconciliation…” This is not an optional ministry but a task given by Christ to His church as part of fulfilling the great commission. To forsake the ministry of reconciliation that God has entrusted us is to bury the talent in the ground, only to return it to the Master on the last day the way he gave it to us, with no fruitful return (Matthew 25:24-25). There is no small need for this ministry today as our culture continues to splinter and fraction in a billion pieces.
People need to know that the gap they feel between a righteous God and the guilt of their conscience has been bridged by the wood and nails that held Jesus down, and an empty tomb that could not contain him. Jesus himself made a way for us to not only get God but to also get along with each other. More than that, He made a way for us to grow with one another so that each member of the body of Christ looks less like each other and more like the Savior. For brothers to dwell in unity, despite differences in non-essential matters.
At the end of the day, I don’t want to be right as much as I want to be renewed, and renewal often comes from the Spirit of God showing us where we were wrong. I don’t want to be known for being right as much as I want to be known for being reasonable and gentle. I don’t want to pursue “rightness” as much as I want to pursue reconciliation and righteousness. Being right, in a human way, is often antithetical to the gospel of salvation which begins with a repentance that says, “I was wrong.”