Admiting to someone that you were wrong can be hard to do. Pride is a jealous friend and it doesn’t like you wandering off to see other people. But, like an abusive relationship, it can be liberating to get away and finally be honest. “I was wrong.” It’s hard to say at first, but refreshing, especially when we make saying it a habit when it’s true. And let’s not kid ourselves; it often is. This is because admitting we are wrong and doing something about it are two different animals.
An old quote resurfaced for me this week that goes a little something like this: “When an honest man discovers he is mistaken, he will either cease being mistaken, or he will cease being honest” [anonymous]. This is one of those pithy lines that is so striking because it captures not only reality but our reality. This is exactly us as people, what we do, and how we do it. Right and wrong come with responsibility. What’s true either has to be reflected in our lives or we become liars. Ignorance is an excuse only once. After that, we must change.
Saul of Tarsus should stand out when we think of this quote. Not only for his decisions but for those of the people around him too. When he was confronted by Jesus (Acts 9:1-19), he was doing what he thought was right (2 Tim. 1:3, Acts 23:1). When Jesus challenged him, his life showed that he understood he was mistaken and was thus no longer. Paul is a true, and unfortunately rare, honest person. Soon, he began to show other people the truth. He usually started with people that had the same background as him, teaching truth to the Jews in their synagogues. His change of heart and life was obvious: “And immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’ All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, ‘Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?’” (Acts 9:20-21). Indeed, honesty is amazing in a world full of lies.
From then on, Saul “confounded the Jews” (Acts 9:22) by “explaining and giving evidence” (17:3) about the truth of the gospel. When counterpoints were given, “he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.” (18:28). He was right. They knew it and he knew it. But how did they react? Some honest souls were persuaded (17:4, 34), but most became angry, contrary (19:8-9), jealous (17:5), and violent (9:23-24, 14:5, 14:19). On multiple occasions, honest, God-fearing people stopped being honest. Honest-to-goodness honest people will change when mistaken and become loyal to God. But most people are mistaken about the truth and whether or not they are good, honest people. Which are you?