When right is wrong

Recently I have been involved in an on-going discussion on another board that started with a question about Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage. Now, I don’t want to get into that specific discussion here, but the aspect that has stayed with me is this: If gay marriage is wrong, is an opponent’s demonization of Obama better or worse than Obama’s endorsement of it?

I have my own ideas on this, which I’ll share in a bit, but there was something that was nagging at me until it finally clicked for me this afternoon when my love, Rachel, and I were returning from a relaxing day out. It came in the form of a question, which I have made into a poll. Please take a moment to vote now before you read the rest of this post, so I don’t bias your answer:

 

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OK, so what do I think? To me, there is only one possible answer: God far prefers us to do the wrong thing for a good reason than the right thing for a wrong reason. In fact, I don’t think it is even close. There are two powerful things in Scripture that confirm this opinion for me.

First of all, look at Jesus. His harshest condemnation (in fact, almost His only condemnation) is aimed at the Pharisees and other teachers of the Law. These were people who understood the moral laws of God far better than most of those Christians today who condemn Obama. They loved the Law, they were determined to keep it, in every detail, to do any and everything God had commanded. Yet Jesus, while consorting with prostitutes, tax collectors, and sinners, slams them the hardest. And why? Because they did all this good stuff for the wrong reason! He didn’t disagree with what they did, but hated the why. And for the sinners? He doesn’t condone their sin, but if their hearts were turning towards God he wasn’t concerned about the what, just their desire to change.

The other is a passage from Paul, one of his best-known, most quoted ones, but look at it in this context: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” Maybe we could add “if I know all about God’s moral code, and tell everyone, but have not love, it is all for nothing.”

I think it is clear from these things that doing the right thing for the wrong reason is abhorrent to God. I think the reason is that it is very hard for such people to be changed. But if someone has a good motive (love) but the wrong idea of how that should be worked out, it is not that hard for God’s Spirit to lead the person into the right behaviour.

The upshot of all this, as I have stated on the other board is this: When it comes to things like politics, we might disagree with each other over specific policies, but we should still treat each other with respect and love. Debate the issues by all means, but do it with the attitude that the other party is also honestly trying to do what is best.  And be prepared to be the one who is wrong. After all, love means to think the best of others, to assume, until proven otherwise, that their motives are good even when their ideas are different from ours or even from our conception of what God’s ideas are.

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2 Responses to “When right is wrong”

  1. qualitytw Says:

    I like this article, Thank you for the inspiration!

  2. princesswarna Says:

    Good philosophy to live by. It is hard to be wrong, of course, but it does grow us in humility!

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