Willing to Be Wrong in Your Walk of Faith
In my Presbyterian tradition (PCUSA), we talk about being reformed and always reforming. In the United Church of Christ (UCC), they say that God is still speaking. Both statements are ways of communicating that our understanding of who God is and who we are called to be is ever changing and growing. Other traditions may criticize us for implying that God changes or accuse us of “changing God” to fit whatever we want to believe. We do believe in an unchanging God, but also in a God who is so great and so awesome that we will never completely grasp the fullness of God in this life. As we grow in our faith, our understanding of God grows and changes as well.
This is illustrated nowhere in our scriptures as clearly as it is in the story of Paul’s dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9)
Paul (formerly known as Saul) was on his way to Damascus to imprison and/or kill Christians when he is struck blind by a bright light and hears the voice of Jesus asking why Saul is persecuting him. Not only is Saul struck blind, he is struck with the knowledge that everything he had devoted his life to up until this point was just plain wrong. As faithful and as devoted as he was, he had totally missed the mark.
On that road to Damascus, Paul’s understanding of who God was and who he was called to be changed dramatically. Was he any more or less faithful than he had been before? No! He was just as faithful, but he understood that his faith had been misdirected. So he changed. He redirected his faith and devotion from literally trying to kill the church to becoming the superstar church planter of the first century.
A life of walked with Jesus is one walked knowing that as faithful and devoted as we try to be, sometimes we’re going to be wrong. That’s right. Wrong. The way we have chosen to go may not, in fact, be God’s way. Even when we have walked in that way with the best intentions and in good faith. Because God doesn’t change, but we do. The faith I had at age 18 (which was genuine and strong) is not the same faith that I have some 30 years leader. God hasn’t changed one bit, but I have.
As the body of Christ, the things we have held to be sacred and unchanging, are in fact, changing. The people who use the idea that God is unchanging and the Word of God endures forever and ever as justification for not allowing women in the pulpit or refusing to embrace our LGBTQ brothers and sisters or not changing anything from the day we worship to the paint color in the nursery have missed the mark. God is not changing, but we are.
The Good News is that the kind of Savior who can give a guy like Saul as second chance is one prepared to offer one to us as well. We probably won’t be blinded by the light or hear the voice of God, but as we make our own faith journey, may we always be open to the possibility that we have made a wrong turn. May we be willing to turn around and head in a different direction…knowing that we never make the journey alone.