Pride, Humility, and Change
Since God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble, it stands to reason that humility is an attitude that we must seek in every action and word as we strive to do all in His name (cf. 1 Pet 5:5; Col 3:17). When we claim to follow Christ and yet project pride and arrogance, we are not glorifying God or showing that we “have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:3).
This is also true in how we study and teach Scripture. We are to accept humbly the Lord’s teachings, knowing that His words will judge us in the last day (Jn 12:48). Humility requires the utmost care in how we approach our studies and conclusions. We believe His word is truth. We believe that His truth can be understood. At the same time, we must have the humility to admit that there are some things we may not understand. It’s ok to say, “I don’t know” as we seek answers. We must grant that it is possible that we are wrong about some conclusions and be willing to listen, learn, and grow. If we cannot do that, then our pride has taken over and we are in the arena opposed by God.
Have you ever studied something and changed your mind because you realized your previous views were not correct? Rare would be the one who has not done this on something. We expect others whom we may teach to have that spirit, to recognize they could be wrong, and be willing to listen. Shall we ask that of others but refuse to admit this same attitude in ourselves?
This is not to defend a wishy-washy tossed-about by every doctrine kind of mentality. May it never be! We must strike a balance between knowing that our minds can be led astray on the one hand and knowing that God’s truth is attainable on the other. If I shut my mind to learning more and potentially changing, I may well be closing my eyes to God’s truth. If, in my pride, I refuse to change, then I am in opposition to God and His grace.
Yet humility does also mean that we submit ourselves to what the Lord teaches in His word. Some conclusions are just difficult to escape — not that we should want to escape them — and if we fail to stand up for what we know is right, then we cannot claim humility in that. It is pride that keeps me from learning and changing when I see that I am wrong, and it is also pride that keeps me from standing for truth.
What can we do to help keep the balance?
1. Keep studying. Gain conviction through faith and stand for truth, but also stay open to learning more.
2. Invite others to the study. Listening to and learning from others is important because we are all essentially in dialogue with each other. There may be things I have not have thought about. There may be information I have missed. Others can teach me. Think Apollos here (Acts 18:24-28).
3. Do not change easily. I do not mean to be stubborn beyond reason. I mean that if conviction means anything, it is not going to cave in easily. I am willing to change, but if I am convinced something is the truth, I will not change at the whim of another who says I am wrong. I want evidence. I want sound argumentation. I need to be convinced that a set conviction is wrong. This is needed for stability.
4. When proven wrong, admit it and make the change. This is the pattern we see in someone like Saul (Paul), who did not change easily, but when he did he was, as we say, all in. It may take some doing to be proven wrong, and we ought to have the high standard of the Word, but once we see it, we need to accept it for what it is.
5. Submit everything back to God and His word. Study and learn, then study more, and keep God’s word front and center. Here is the familiar pattern: “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
All of this is to be done to the glory of God. The purpose of learning, embracing, and teaching the truth is not so that we win debates, get one up on others, and find new ways to show how wrong people are. The purpose is to glorify God. I don’t glorify God in pride and unreasonable stubbornness. I glorify God in humility and willingness to hear, learn, change, and be conformed to His image.