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There’s a lot of talk today about what’s “right.” When I was growing up you often heard the phrase, “Might makes right.” Others would say “right” is whatever you feel in your heart. Those who deny God’s existence seem to feel intense about what they believe is right. But if you say something is right, you assume something is wrong. If you assume right and wrong, then you must assume a moral law that determines what’s right and wrong; if you assume a moral law, then you must assume a moral law giver—which leads you to God. But that’s what they’re arguing against. So, without God, how can they claim to be “right”?
A new slogan I hear all the time today is Cancel Culture. Let me try to define it: It refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support from people or companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive. It is generally performed on social media in the form of group shaming. In other words, if you do or say something that a group finds objectionable, or by their standards “wrong,” they will try to destroy your life—which in their minds is “right.” I also find it fascinating that there seems to be no chance for redemption once convicted. Cancel Culture is actually just an eastern practice, repackaged for our western culture.
So, my question is, who decides what’s right and wrong? And how do they decide? I thought my truth was my truth because I believe it. I thought shaming someone for their choices was hateful and self-righteous. I thought it was wrong to judge someone else. I thought it was wrong to be intolerant. I thought it was none of your business how someone else chooses to live.
As a culture, I think we need to do some self-reflection. We talk about kindness, but there seems to be no patience, no mercy. We talk about tolerance, but we show no forgiveness. We talk about love, but seem to thrive on hatred. We demand to express our views and feelings, but often become verbally or physically violent if YOUR thoughts or words don’t conform to MY definition of “Right.” What most people want is to hear their views come out of your mouth. Anything short of that is unacceptable, and you will pay a price. It’s easy to be critical of others, but ask yourself: do I live out, with my time and resources, what I say I believe? If I find someone’s choices offensive, am I respectful? Do I love my enemies? Do I show mercy and kindness to those I vehemently disagree with?
This next question is very important. Is it only my opinion that an action is right or wrong, or am I in alignment with God’s truth? Paul is clear that our own opinions should not dominate our thoughts. He writes in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent, or praiseworthy, think about such things.”
The word we are talking about this morning—right—is the Greek word just. It can also be translated righteous. The word was used to describe a person who was duty-bound to the gods or to other people. It’s the kind of behavior that God expects of everyone. Throughout the New Testament it often has to do with being upright, keeping God’s law, walking the straight and narrow way, and living an innocent and guiltless life.
As I was reading through Proverbs again, I came across this verse in Proverbs 1:2-3: “for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair.” That’s what Paul is saying—think about what is right, and just, and fair. Not in your own eyes, but in God’s eyes, and apply that to others. Several times throughout Scripture, this word is used to describe God. And we know we are called to be like Him. 1 Peter 1:16 says, “for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”
But all too often we choose to focus on what can bring us comfort, ease, and pleasure. Most people don’t live for God or others. Though many of us desire to live a righteous life, our minds are often pulled in the opposite direction, to the unrighteous. Galatians 5:19-21 says, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Whenever sinful man decides to superimpose his own moral rules on others it should be remembered, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9). That’s why Paul calls us to “think about such things,”—godly things—and to think God’s thoughts, not our own. Our culture has become the moral police, defining what is right and wrong and passing judgment on those who refuse to fall in line. I find it fascinating that people judge God’s righteous standards, and long to abolish His truth, only to replace it with their own laws of conduct. But it’s God who sets the standard for what is just and right and fair.
Romans 7:12 says, “So, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” Proverbs 21:2 reminds us, “A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart.”
God’s thoughts are right and just, and unlike those who create their own definition of “right,” He is merciful and chooses to forgive when we fall short. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” We cannot expect those who don’t follow Christ to act as if they do.
The problem is that not all Christians model this ideal, either. Some of us today need to repent of our unjust and unrighteous thoughts. We need to ask God to forgive us for the way we’ve treated those around us—for the poor example we’ve set, and for the way we’ve dishonored Christ. But there’s good news. 1 John 2:1-2 tells us, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”
For others this is a time to recognize your need for Christ. It’s not about being “right” in your own eyes; it’s about being right and just in His eyes. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In Romans 10:9 we read, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” In John 3:16 it says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
If it’s your desire to be adopted into God’s family, then pray this simple prayer: Father, I recognize that I’m imperfect, that I’m not living a right and just life. And I know that my sin has separated me from you. I no longer want to live my life without you. I want Jesus to come into my heart and bridge that separation. I do confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and I want Him to be the Lord of my life. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and show me my purpose. I love you, and today I become your child. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Pastor Jeff Greer