A Right to be Wrong
Did you know that today, there are over 11 million illegal immigrants, running around this country? We’re being overrun by illegals! We have no way to stop them, until we build a wall.
We’re all immigrants. Some of us have just been here a little longer than others. Walls will not make America great.
When seconds count, the police are just minutes away. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Only law-abiding citizens obey gun laws.
Ever day, over 100 people are killed by guns. Something must be done! We need strict laws to prevent dangerous weapons from falling into the wrong hands!
It’s clear from the Bible that men were appointed to be the head of the household. Jesus appointed 12 apostles to lead the church. He didn’t ordain women then, and He wouldn’t do it today!
Jesus had many women followers. Throughout the history of the Bible, women have played a vital roll in leading God’s people. Let us recognize God’s ability to call whomever He will.
I could go on with more examples, but I might be hung, or stoned. If nothing else is clear from these examples, one thing should be obvious: We are more divided today, than perhaps we’ve ever been before. We’re divided as a nation, and yes, we’re even divided as a church. These are just some of the hottest topics in American politics and in the church today.
But with this in mind, I’d like for us to look at our topic today, which I’ve called simply: A Right to be Wrong.
(You can listen to this message online here)
If you’re like me, you probably have strong opinions on some or all of these issues. I won’t tell you now which side I’m on—that’s not my point. But I do know many sincere, godly, and very intelligent people who stand on all sides of these issues. People who read the same Bible I read, who pray in the same church, who have learned the same history. These people have come to different conclusions than I have, on these very issues.
It begs the question, to me: how do we, as Christians, relate to our brothers and sisters who see the world differently? Do we have a duty to correct their thinking? Perhaps. Do we need to go find other people who think more like us, and disassociate ourselves from people who are differently than us?
You know, the Internet has made it so easy to do just that. It used to be that, if we wanted friends, we were forced to talk and associate with those who lived physically near us. But now, with the advent of the Internet and social media, we can have friends all over the world—and these networks are set up to connect us with people who think just like us.
We’re bombarded with so much information, we’ve become unable to process it. As a result, we retreat into our ideological “holes” and refuse to acknowledge anything that conflicts with our firmly-held beliefs.
How do we relate in a world where ideologies are more polarized than ever before? I’ve got so many friends of Facebook, if you post something I don’t agree with, I could just “unfriend” you and go on with my life.
Friends, this makes me very afraid. I’m afraid we’re loosing a key ability of humankind. We’re loosing the ability to have meaningful conversations with people who hold different viewpoints from our own. And we’re loosing the ability to critically examine our own beliefs—to make ourselves vulnerable to others and to rationally examine the evidence.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t have strong beliefs. I’ve always been fascinated by science. I like to think critically—to think outside the box. But I don’t wake up every morning and say, “Hey, I wonder if I should re-examine the law of gravity. I let me test it by rolling off the bed to see if I still hit the floor!”
We have the word of God, and though others may doubt and scoff, I do not wake up every morning and say, “I wonder if the Bible is still true today.” I have examined the evidence—as I would challenge each of you to do, if you are not yet thoroughly convinced. I have examined the evidence, and I’ve found God’s word to be true. I don’t need to doubt God’s word. The same is true of God’s love. I don’t ever need to doubt God’s love—because I’ve examined the evidence and I know it’s real.
We have pillars of truth, upon which we stand. Paul cautions us to “put on the armor of God,” so we can go out into a world with the “sword of truth,” which is the Word of God. With the authority of God’s word, we can resist the onslaught of Satanic delusion sweeping our world today.
Yes, we must be firm. But do you suppose, sometimes, we could be too sure of ourselves? Is it possible to lift words and phrases from God’s Holy Book, and use them to bolster our own ideologies? Is it possible that the puzzle pieces of truth might sometimes keep us from recognizing the One Who is truth?
In a word, have we come to a place where we never consider the possibility that we could ever be mistaken? Have we come to the place in society where we refuse to have honest and open conversations with those who disagree with us?
Paul writes in Romans 12:3: For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
This is not a sermon designed to shake your faith in God. But perhaps, from time to time, we need someone to shake our faith in ourselves.
Let me give you an example.
When I was 12 years old, my family moved to British Columbia. I was far away from family and friends, and I liked to spend my time studying. I read books, I learned about computers and science, and I loved studying the Bible. I had come across people who, I thought, were teaching that Jesus saves everybody, no matter what you do. You don’t have to do anything, just accept Jesus, and you’ll be saved. And I didn’t like it. I made it my mission in life to prove them wrong. I got out my Bible, and I had books on Righteousness by Faith, and I started studying. And I became convinced that, in order to be saved, you had to confess and surrender, and try REALLY REALLY HARD to keep all of God’s law, and that if you were sincere, Jesus would forgive your sins. Then, most importantly, He would help you to keep His law, and then eventually if you did good enough, He would save you.
My favorite verse in the Bible was Matthew 1:21, “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” And I had several other favorites, such Matthew 7:13-14: “straight is the gate, and narrow is the way…”
I would go to Sabbath School, and nearly every week I would pick an argument with the Sabbath School teacher, on this topic. He would talk about the grace of God. He would talk about grace as unmerited favor, and speak about how we don’t have to earn it. But, I knew he was wrong. After all, Jesus came to save us “from” sin, and that means we have to do something, right?
It wasn’t until a year and a half later, after my family moved to Kentucky, that the Lord finally broke through to my stubborn heart, through the influence of our pastor, Pastor Sam. He was doing Bible studies with my brother and I, as we were preparing for baptism. In one of the studies, I started arguing with Pastor Sam about this same very issue—faith and works. How can God’s grace really be free? And it was when he patiently, humbly pointed out some OTHER Bible texts—texts that I had consistently overlooked—that suddenly the light dawned in my mind, and for the first time I saw God’s grace, through Christ, as a free gift. Not something I had to earn—not something I had to be “good enough” to get, but something He offered me, and all I had to do was to accept it. And I did. Oh, praise God—I had a freedom that I had never experienced before! Not that I didn’t keep the rules, but I had freedom because of what Jesus had done for me, and now I could joyfully obey Him because of His free gift. Not long after that—on June 27, 1998, to be exact, I sealed my commitment to Him through baptism.
Since that day, I’ve never looked back. I’ve never second-guessed my commitment. Yet my thinking has continued to change. A few years ago, I did another deep subject into issues relating to the law and grace, and I came away from that study having shifted my thinking again—realizing that I had still held on to a form of legalism even after I was baptized. And all too often, I realize I’ve been so thick-headed over something that should have been so simple to realize. But because of my pride, I refused to admit it. And to be honest, I’m probably still there in a lot of things. Just ask my wife if you have any doubt.
So let me bring this story back around to my topic for today. As I said, I’m calling today’s message, “A Right to be Wrong.” What do I mean, “A Right to be Wrong”?
Simply this: I’ve found myself to be wrong, so many times—sincere, yes, but sincerely wrong. Now, when I meet someone else who (I think) is clearly wrong, how do I treat them? Do I make it my duty to correct their thinking? Do I shun their friendship, or discard them as a person, because I don’t agree with them? Or do I remember all the times that I, myself, have been wrong, and extend to them the same grace that I want others to give me, when I’ve been wrong? Without losing my own convictions, am I able to converse with them with humility? Do I realize that I, too, can learn things from their point of view—things that may cause me to shift or analyze some of my own beliefs? Simply put—do I allow others in my life a right to be wrong?
This isn’t the same thing as pluralism. Pluralism teaches that there is no absolute truth. That all viewpoints are equally valid—that all roads lead to heaven, as it were. I can’t say, “I’m right, and you’re right. We’re all equally right, because we believe it to be so.” That doesn’t make any sense at all. But what we can do, is to say in a sense, “I respect your right to be wrong.”
That is, I respect you as a person, and not only that, I recognize that I, too, could be wrong—or at least, that I certainly have more to learn, and that your perspective could be the key to enhancing my own understanding, and that through conversation we might both be able to come to a better understanding of truth.
But, is this Biblical? Can I follow the Bible, and still allow others in my life whom I disagree with?
Jesus says in Matthew 5:39 “But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”
A few verses later:
Mt 5:43-45: ““You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
I think this is so important, right here. God, in heaven, allows us the right to be wrong. He could easily withhold his blessings from those who choose not to serve Him, but He doesn’t. He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust,” If God Himself is so benevolent, would it not behoove His followers to be just as benevolent to our fellow man, especially considering that we, too, could be just as wrong?
In Luke’s gospel, we find the same statement of Jesus recorded this way “For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.” (Luke 6:35)
Is this just a New Testament principle? Not at all! Consider Psalms 145:9: “The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works.”
Let’s take it even a step further. Perhaps my favorite verse in all the Bible is Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
My friends, at the heart of the gospel is this very concept: that Jesus loved us, and pursued a relationship with us, not only while we were wrong, but while we still hated Him! And in this relationship, He doesn’t demand our love. He doesn’t demand that we believe everything correctly. He doesn’t even demand that we agree with Him. He gives us the right to reject Him. Of course, there are consequences to that decision, but He leaves the choice to us. He gives us, as it were, a right to be wrong.
Joshua 24:15 And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
He gives the choice—to serve Him, or not to serve Him. I believe, friends, that this is the principle that lies at the heart of religious liberty. Man cannot compel the conscience. We are very strong on that principle when it comes to the separation of church and state. Everything we’ve said here—every one of this verses, makes the case that God, the King of the Universe, does not force the conscience. God does not compel us to worship Him. How much less should human governments try to compel others to follow God in a certain way?
Throughout history, we’ve seen the terrible results of governments that compel people to worship. In the middle ages, churches were filled with parishioners who had no love for God, and were motivated to attend worship only to secure favor with the ruling class, or to avoid punishment. Churches were corrupted, and the true followers of God had to search out secret places to worship. Soon, many became martyrs at the hands of the state-church, because they dared to worship according to the dictates of their conscience.
We celebrate, in this land, a land of freedom. But how much do we believe in freedom? Do we only believe in freedom, when it means freedom for ourselves? Or do we believe in allowing freedom for others—even those who disagree with us?
What about in the church? Certainly, the church plays by different rules, and as a church, we have standards to uphold. We do not have the ability to control people’s lives, as the state does. But does this principle of religious freedom apply here, even to us, in our dealings with our fellow believers? While we must hold up the pillars of truth, is there not also a place here for mutual forbearance? Can we not give space for others to be wrong, and still have a part in our own lives? “for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
In the Bible, God has revealed to us His truth. He has only one truth. There are not many roads to Heaven. Jesus says “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
But part of that truth—in fact at the center of this truth—is the fact that God is Love. God wants His creatures to obey Him, because we love Him. Love is not forced. God has given us the opportunity to choose Him, because He knows that’s the only way we’ll ever love Him.
Over the past two centuries, our nation has struggled with great divides. Never was this more pronounced than during the Civil War in the middle 19th century. At the heart of this struggle was this question: How do we treat our brothers and sisters of color? Do we hold them in slavery? Even more, how do we see those who happen to be on the other side of the dividing line—fighting in the opposing army?
Today, my friends, we again find ourselves in a nation, and yes, even in a church, that is deeply divided. How do we see those who happen to be on the other side of the line? Do we view them as the “enemy?” If so, my friends, remember Jesus words: “Love your enemies.”
I hope that we can learn to recognize, in those who disagree with us, not enemies, but brothers and sisters, who are struggling along the same road we are. Brothers and sisters who may be going the same directions, but who may just be in a different lane. Can we give them a right to be wrong?
My friends, I believe we are living in the closing days of this earth’s history. I believe that soon, our eyes will behold the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! No matter what side of the “issues” we may find ourselves on, may we, in that day, be found of the side of Christ—for His truth goes marching on!