The Reaction Against Being Right

by Barry Newton
Sometimes today as I mingle among my peers, values seem to have morphed from when I was a boy sitting around my parents’ dinner table. Back then, to have accurately grasped and conveyed an idea was the unspoken holy grail buttressing whether anything of worth had been spoken.
Today, eyes can dart furtively whenever someone confidently claims to have accurately described a particular doctrine. From what I have experienced, often the preferred language tends to idolize a tentatively politically-correct sophistication or a supposed profoundness which thinly shrouds personal speculation. As one preacher quietly expressed to me, believing that you are right can lead to self-righteous arrogance and a condescending attitude that fails to live out the message.
Hmm. Often criticisms contain at least a granule of truth. It is possible for people to trust in the accuracy of their understanding rather than in the Lord, thus stunting the message’s transforming power over their lives. The Pharisee whom Jesus described in his parable as praying, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men” easily epitomizes such a person.
Ironically, the healthy solution for such self-righteousness does not originate from abandoning certainty, but rather emanates from the right perception of who we are in our relationship with God. To return to Jesus’ parable of the two men praying at the temple, the tax collector would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast saying, “God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Or to paraphrase Jesus, after you have understood everything correctly and responded appropriately you should say, “I am only an unworthy servant who has done his duty.”
Correctly understanding truth and being certain of what is right is not the problem. Forgetting in whom our confidence lies and who we are before God in serving him who gave that life-shaping doctrine is the stumbling block.

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