You are not perfect... but neither am I
A popular sermon of John Wesley is his sermon over 2 Kings 10:15 titled “Catholic Spirit”. While we have come to know Catholic as a branch of Christianity it actually means universal. John Wesley sermon is about what unites us as Christians. Today we will look at section I(4-6) as Wesley continues to describe what it means to have a right heart.
Nay, farther: although every man necessarily believes that every particular opinion which he holds is true (for to believe any opinion is not true, is the same thing as not to hold it); yet can no man be assured that all his own opinions, taken together, are true. Nay, every thinking man is assured they are not, seeing humanum est errare et nescire: "To be ignorant of many things, and to mistake in some, is the necessary condition of humanity." This, therefore, he is sensible, is his own case. He knows, in the general, that he himself is mistaken; although in what particulars he mistakes, he does not, perhaps he cannot, know. (I.4)
Did you follow that? Wesley basically says that everyone believes their opinions to be correct and a “thinking man” or someone with logic knows that it is impossible that all their beliefs are correct, either out of ignorance or just plan wrong, BUT we don’t know what our mistakes are. Wesley is speaking of cognitive dissonance. We understand a concept but not how it applies to ourselves. It is a common phrase that “no one is perfect” but we often can’t see our own imperfections- especially when we are frustrated by opinions and actions of someone else. A right heart begins with self-reflection. Do I know who I am? Am I confident in who I am that I am ok with being wrong? If you are then you most likely will be more understanding when others are wrong.
I say "perhaps he cannot know;" for who can tell how far invincible ignorance may extend? Or (that comes to the same thing) invincible prejudice? --which is often so fixed in tender minds, that it is afterwards impossible to tear up what has taken so deep a root. And who can say, unless he knew every circumstance attending it, how far any mistake is culpable? Seeing all guilt must suppose some concurrence of the will; of which he only can judge who searcheth the heart.(I.5)
Our beliefs go deep to who we are our roots. This is beneficial when we are following wisdom and the Holy Spirit but problematic when our beliefs are wrong because of ignorance. Wesley uses ignorance often in this sermon and we should not view this as a negative characteristic. Rather, it is merely stating there are times where we lack experience or incorrect assumptions and facts to fully understand. This is why things like mission trips or volunteering is so important. It exposes us to new places, new people and new situations. These experiences expose how our beliefs were not accurate, not because we are malicious or prejudice by because we lacked experience to fully understand. When we lack experience, it can be easy to misunderstand those around us. This misunderstanding is difficult to uproot and requires real soul searching in who you are and why do you believe in what you do.
Every wise man, therefore, will allow others the same liberty of thinking which he desires they should allow him; and will no more insist on their embracing his opinions, than he would have them to insist on his embracing theirs. He bears with those who differ from him, and only asks him with whom he desires to unite in love that single question, "Is thy heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?" (I.6)
The last two paragraphs were laying the foundation for this paragraph. We should offer the grace to others that we desire they allow us. If I hope you will consider my beliefs with grace then I should also consider your beliefs with grace. If I hope that in spite of our differences you will respect me then I should respect you even though you disagree with me. As Jesus says “ Do onto others as you would have them do to you.”
I invite you this week to contemplate who you are. We are all imperfect, yet we are all loved by God. How can we know who we are and share the love of God will the imperfect people in our lives?