I Might Be Wrong
Last month, pastor, songwriter, and good Midwestern boy Eric Schumacher delivered a sermon’s worth of truth in a single tweet:
I believe the Gospel.
Some of my theology is wrong.
Some of my theology will be wrong at death.
The Bible doesn’t indicate that God is in a constant state of annoyance with, anxiety over, or suspicion of me. He patiently loves and teaches me.
How ought we to love one another?
That will preach.
Little did Eric know he was preaching right at me, or that I break out in cold sweat, turning over those same sermon points in my head.
The curve of my journey moves through a healthy dose of self-doubt. A Southern Baptist pastor’s kid who held the line taut for more than 20 years became a denominational free agent interested, maybe more so, in good deeds as right words. From there, a slow, sometimes exhausting climb into ancient theology—a personal Reformation.
Retracing each footfall I see that tripping over my own two feet eventually led me somewhere, but not every step I took struck solid ground. The stumbles and falls brought their share of swollen ankles and forehead knots. Even with my wounds, certainty in my positions still creeps over me like warmth from a blanket. This assurance seems inevitable—but how to handle it with care?
Accompanying my theological journey in the last few years came a dawning recognition of how love and action are connected. God’s affection for all he surveys and calls good whet my appetite for equity and justice. His grace—boundless yet small enough to fit into any space or situation—precedes a faithful fight against racism, sexism, and all that mars his image.
I thought this realization came to all people as they steeped in scripture. So I don’t know what to do with a certain class of professing Christians whose cover-to-cover reading of the Bible brings them into direct eye contact with Isaiah, Paul, and James. But they still roll their eyes while explaining away the experiences of brothers and sisters.
In moments of dissonance, my heart rages within me and my mind races ahead to the moments just before the doors of a new heaven and earth fling open. Unable to find the sense in their sensibilities, I picture feet slipping from the toeholds of salvation and render my own verdict. I can’t imagine heavenly arms open wide—at least not without purifying fire from Jesus’ mouth.
I might be right. The road remains narrow, and few will find it. Perhaps deafness to our neighbor reveals the true distance between God and some who call out his name.
And yet God remains gracious enough to make my next thought consonant with Eric’s tweet: “What am I that wrong about?”
I tremble in the asking.
Some days, my wrongs outnumber my rights. Wrong about a scripture, misguided in my approach to shaping my son, woefully mistaken in my estimation of someone who bears the divine spark. But what about the wrongs I might never right? Errors in thinking I will pack in the bags I carry into eternity?
That question itches and irritates as I write or preach. Landing rhetorical punches, appealing to angels of a better nature, seems fruitless, detrimental even. Especially when I might think better of my words in a year or two. My opinions about three-minute rock songs change moment to moment, month to month. How can I trust myself to interpret eternal truths?
What words do I hang around another’s neck like a millstone? Have I blocked out the light of God by treating opinion or preference as gospel? I often wish I could turn in the Nicene Creed instead of a column, and call it a day. Something tells me my editor would cry foul.
We face a dilemma, we know the impossibility of abandoning all certainty or conviction. No one actually lives that way. More so, scripture calls us to fidelity and boldness animated by specific beliefs. Without any compass, we wander; without setting our sails in one direction or another, we gather little wind.
Some hills remain great enough to die on. Fighting for the fullness of the gospel, challenging brothers and sisters who work against true expressions of eternal unity. But knowing what we know, we choose hills carefully and charge them with humility.
As we carry on, we stake our faith in the ground Jesus walked. We major in the sweeping drama of scripture—creation, fall, redemption, re-creation—and lift our voices when those plot points are trampled under foot.
We also acknowledge the mystery inherent even in doctrines sure and certain. My affirmation of Jesus’ distinct nature, God and man, harbors no doubt. Yet I understand two, maybe three, percent of what it actually means. Bearing witness to what I see in one breath, testifying to what I can’t possibly know with the next, keeps certainty from choking out love and wonder.
Calculate the difference it might make to the church, our children, a watching world, our own identities, so often beset with shame and pride, if we admitted we might be wrong about something, anything. Talk about your higher-level math.
When the weight of all that’s true about God, and my inevitable omissions and failures, threatens to undo me, I return to a series of prayers. Three appeals, like a painter offering a triptych of complementary scenes, each needing the other:
Lord, sift the words I write and speak. Keep me from leading another soul into temptation. Let what passes from you, through me, remain. Wipe clean the memory of anything I offer in vain confidence.
Give me courage to call out those who fracture the faith, and the humility to see any wreckage I cause. Then grant me repentance, and courage of another sort, to participate in the mending.
Help me see the beauty of sharing eternity with other wrong people—and the size of your glory as you save and recreate us despite all we get wrong.