The dictionary defines the word “mistake” this way: “a misunderstanding of the meaning or implication of something; a wrong action or statement proceeding from faulty judgment or inadequate knowledge.” Most of us would admit that we know plenty about mistakes, without having to consult a dictionary, because of personal experience.
We know that mistakes can be of various kinds. Ever call someone by the wrong name? Ever make a mistake in your checkbook? Ever pick up something you thought wasn’t hot, but was?
The New Testament provides examples of mistakes. One of them is related to an insincere question posed by the Sadducees (Mark 12:18-27). Twice, in vs. 24and 27, Jesus let them know they were mistaken. Acts 19tells us about the mistake of Apollos, due to inadequate knowledge (25). Aquila and Priscilla did not question his sincerity. They kindly “. . . explained to him the way of God more accurately” (26).
The Old Testament also shows us some mistakes. One of them has to do with the Jews who settled on the east side of the Jordan River. They built a large altar that, apparently, could be seen from a great distance. When those on the western side learned about it, we see an all-too-human reaction. They immediately mobilized for war (Joshua 22:12). When eleven selected men came to talk to them, they did not ask for an explanation. Rather, they accused them of rebellion. When the leaders of the two and a half tribes clarified why they had built the altar, understanding resulted in peace and not war (32-33).
Anything we could learn from this? Of course there is. When we think someone has made a mistake in spiritual matters, what is our first reaction? Is it accusation without seeking an explanation? Remember, Jesus had Divine insight. We don’t. It would help if we were more like that godly couple of Acts 19, who corrected kindly. Hopefully, we will not make a greater mistake, by our attitude, than the mistake we try to correct.