I don’t believe that any two people are of exactly the same mind on the contents of the Bible and the subsequent theology that arises in the minds and hearts of men. That makes this wonderful advice applicable for all of us in our dealings with everyone else in the world
How are we to influence another person of faith when there is a point of disagreement about what God has revealed in the Bible? Consider the wisdom of JOHN WESLEY in 1771:
But some may say, I have mistaken the way myself, although I take it upon myself to teach others. It is probable many will think this, and it is very possible that I have. But I trust, whereinsoever I have mistaken, my mind is open to conviction. I sincerely desire to be better informed. I say to God and man, “What I know not, teach thou me!”
Are you persuaded that you see more clearly than me? It is not unlikely that you may. Then treat me as you would desire to be treated yourself upon a change of circumstances. Point out to me a better way than I have yet known. Show me it is so, by plain proof of Scripture. And if I linger in the path I have accustomed to tread, and am therefore unwilling to leave it, labour with me a little; take me by the hand, and lead me as I am able to bear. But be not displeased if I entreat you not to beat me down in order to quicken my pace: I can go but feebly and slowly at best; then, I should not be able to go at all. May I not request of you, further, not to give me hard names in order to bring me into the right way. Suppose I were ever so much in the wrong, I doubt this would not set me right. Rather, it would make me run so much the farther from you, and so get more and more out of the way
Nay, perhaps, if you are angry, so shall I be too; and then there will be small hopes of finding the truth. If once anger arises, [aute kapnos], (as Homer somewhere expresses it,) this smoke will so dim the eyes of my soul, that I shall be able to see nothing clearly. For God’s sake, if it be possible to avoid it, let us not provoke one another to wrath. Let us not kindle in each other this fire of hell; much less blow it up into a flame. If we could discern truth by that dreadful light, would it not be a loss rather than gain? For, how far is love, even with many wrong opinions, to be preferred before truth itself without love! We may die without the knowledge of many truths, and yet be carried into Abraham’s bosom. But if we die without love, what will knowledge avail? Just as much as it avails the devil and his angels!
The God of love forbid that we should ever make the trial. May he prepare us for the knowledge of all truth, by filling our hearts with all his love, and with all joy and peace in believing!
Since I get very passionate about defending my interpretations of scripture, Wesley’s advice is particularly valuable to me. Over the years my opinions have altered. If I had locked my beliefs up in a brain cell and thrown away the key, I never could have grown to the degree that I have. It is important that we consider that we might be in error and avoid dogmatic stubbornness that causes us to wallow in the mire of falsehoods like a hog in the pigpen. Also, when we climb a little higher and see more clearly, we need to remember what it was like before we attained that revelation and have grace and patience with those who are coming up behind us. If our objective is purely to find truth, we must learn to seek in humility and love and share it in the same manner.