In an effort to grow my own personal knowledge, I have recently started some theology courses. (I'm a bit of a nerd, so learning more about Jesus with a school-like approach is right up my alley!) It has only been three weeks and I am already gaining a new perspective of what it means to "grow in grace". In three short weeks, I've been challenged to consider what I believe and why, to search for those truths in scripture to ensure I have a biblical reason to back my beliefs, and to think about what is most important when sharing the gospel. This has called for a lot of grace for myself, and for others. As you study and grow in your knowledge of Christ, it is imperative that you grow in his grace as well.
Grace for yourself
There are a lot of people who experience doubt on some level. Maybe it's not fully doubting the existence of God (maybe it is), but doubting his love, forgiveness, goodness, or power. Maybe its doubting certain scripture, or your interpretation of it. Or doubting your own gifts and purpose. Regardless, most of us struggle with some form of doubt in our lifetime. And I would imagine most of us would also say our doubt brings feelings of guilt, shame and fear. We start to think something is wrong with us for questioning our beliefs, we feel embarrassed about our unbelief and try to hide it from others rather than seeking wise counsel, or we fear if what we do believe is enough. Give yourself grace. It is ok to have questions. It is ok to go through periods of growing pains. It is even ok to change your mind. The key to growing in a healthy way is by not doing it alone. Include a trusted Christian friend, pastor, or counselor who can help you work through the doubts or questions you are wrestling with. Identify the sin and hurts in your life that are preventing you from believing something (i.e. your failed relationships lead you to doubt God's love for you, your inability to forgive someone makes it difficult to believe God forgives you, etc.). Repent of these things and then give yourself the same grace that God has already lavished on you and keep growing.
Grace for others
Have you ever had a conversation with someone you think believes the same things as you and then suddenly they say something out of left field? Is your first impulse to correct them? Write them off? Respond with outrage or disgust? Give them grace. One of the most important things I'm learning is that there are different doctrines that are all within the boundaries of sound doctrine. There are major components of the gospel that are non-negotiable - things we must accept as true to receive salvation. But there are also details scattered throughout God's Word that give us just a hint of how God works. Different interpretations of these things are why we have so many different denominations within the Christian church and such a division among believers (even within the same church). The truth is, there are some things that we just won’t know on this side of Heaven. Don’t let a disagreement over a detail, that really only God himself knows, or a man-made tradition cause a division between you and other believers. It is not worth the stress, division, or refusal to collaborate that come when we argue over things like clothing, music, children's programs, small groups or service/class days and times. Those things do not impede your salvation. I'm not suggesting these details aren't important or shouldn't be discussed; we always want to justify our beliefs and actions with scripture. However, if it is not a matter of someone's salvation, then it is not worth arguing to the point of losing a brother or sister in Christ over. Work towards a common ground and let grace cover the rest.