The phrase “err on the side of caution” annoys me. Subtly baked into it is the foreknowledge that a course of action is error, and we are accepting that. Given the fact that a double negative makes a positive, I make a concerted effort to push back on cautious errors. We should err on the side of caution when it comes to erring on the side of caution.
That is to say, why err at all if it can be helped?
“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” So says the poem by Englishman Alexander Pope in ‘An Essay on Criticism, Part II’ published in 1711.
By God’s grace, there is forgiveness in Christ for our errors. Yet we should endeavor to not err, by God’s grace. And where we see an error we are about to commit – whether one of caution or brashness – we ought to ask of ourselves and God how to do what is right and proper in light of the circumstances and God’s Word.
Consider this: Christ our Lord never erred on the side of caution. We know this because we know that he never erred at all. Yes, “he was tempted in all ways as we are, yet without sin.” And Hebrews 4:15 comforts us with the reminder that we do have a high priest who is able to sympathize with our weakness.
But what do we find? When caution was warranted, Christ took care. And when boldness was required, Christ was direct and aggressive in the best senses of those terms.
It inescapably follows that we should study the actions and reactions of our Lord to discern better when caution is correct and when boldness is. In so doing, we will ourselves better master when we ought to be cautious and when we ought to be bold.
Confidence With Humility
“The wicked flee when no one pursues, But the righteous are bold as a lion.”
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
What the Apostle Paul is getting at here with his disciple Timothy is that teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness has as its end our completion and equipment for every good work.
This means we adopt a position of humility, yes. But we also speak and act in boldness. And the truly difficult maintenance is in living, working, and relating from a depth of both humility and boldness.
Christ was tempted in all the ways we are – both to be cautious when boldness was necessary, and to be brash when gentleness was appropriate. But he deftly maneuvered between these two sets of sharp rocks. And by God’s grace, so can we.
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