In religious history, no one was more “right” than the Pharisees. They were keepers and followers of the law, which they knew forward and back. Yet they were so intent on being right that they missed the joy of being in the right. The same is true for many of us today.
There is an unfortunate tendency in each of us, especially those of us in and around politics and public policy, to be “right.”
I see this all the time, in myself, my circle of friends, culture at large, and throughout history.
The First Century zealots in Israel were zealous for their zeal… What exactly, besides independence from Rome, they were hoping to achieve with their zeal was a bit murky. But they were zealous!
Consider this. When the Romans encircled Jerusalem in 70 A.D., various factions inside the city began fighting for dominance. They began burning each other’s food supplies! Why? Because they were more concerned with being right than loving their neighbors.
It is way too easy to do very wrong things when pursuing recognition for being right. Political purity czars are a lonely lot and rarely as pure as they perceive themselves. They trade the joy of warm camaraderie for the faint praise of self-congratulations.
Let me suggest that it is more important for us to be “in the right.” That is, we should be less concerned with proving ourselves to be righteous than we are in living out our lives righteously in a spirit of humility.
When seeking admiration for “being right,” we are serving ourselves. In working to be “in the right,” we are serving something greater and more meaningful.
Among my favorite passages of scripture is Joshua 5:13-15. On the eve of battle, Joshua saw a mighty warrior on the plains of Jericho near camp. Joshua asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
The reply? “Neither, but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”
Joshua wanted to be right, that is, to be sure he was on the same side as the mighty warrior. This warrior, though, tossed Joshua’s assumptions (my side or my enemies’ side) to the wind. He reminded Joshua that the higher calling was to be on God’s side.
The same is true for each of us.
Rather than striving to “be right,” we should make sure we are in the right. It is from that position that we will find maximum effectiveness and joy as citizens in the fight for our republic.