When Right Is Wrong and Good is Bad

You’ve probably heard this expression before. WWJD. What Would Jesus Do? It’s a common expression (well, not so common these days) often used to remind someone to do the right thing. To resist temptation to son and act like Jesus. Canton Jones’ song, “Stay Saved”, comes to mind when I think about WWJD. In the song, he says;

I’m a stay saved
When I’m driving on 285 and somebody cut me off and flipped me the bird
I’m a stay saved
When I’m playin ball and they foulin dawg and I hit the floor get up don’t say a word
I’m a stay saved
When I’m walkin through the mall with my wife and somebody still attemptin to catch her eye
I’m a stay saved
When I go to the refrigerator and somebody done ate my sweet potato pie
I’m a stay saved

In short, whenever he (Canton) finds himself in situations where he is tempted to sin, he reminds himself that he must stay saved. That he is a Christian and vengeance is the Lord’s. This is a good and noble objective. We must always strive to do right and resist temptation. Right living is part of our Christian witness to the world, and how we bring glory to God on earth. Even so, it is not always easy to do the right thing. We are hardwired and inclined to sin. “De” fault is our default. It is harder to sin than not to sin. If you don’t believe me, read Romans 7.

WHEN OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS IS WRONG

Yet, the right thing is not always the right thing. Obeying God’s commands is not always obeying God’s commands. WWJD is not always WJID (What Jesus Is Doing). The Bible is pretty clear on what God thinks about the right things being done with the wrong motives. It begins with Cain. He made the right sacrifices, but had the wrong heart. So did Saul, he offered the right sacrifices at Gilgal, but the timing was wrong. And remember Judas? He said all the right things about Mary’s expensive perfume, the money would have been better used to help the poor. But his heart was wrong. He had selfish motives.

The right thing is not always the right thing.

In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to offer various sacrifices. Sacrifices were good things. They symbolized atonement for sin. Yet, God ended up saying “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” [1 Sam 15:22]

In the New Testament, Jesus commanded us to pray. Prayer is a good thing. We are exhorted to pray without ceasing. Yet, God rejects the prayer of the Pharisee and accepts the prayer of the tax collector.

The right thing is not always the right thing.

THE ONE WHO “RIGHTS” OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS

God wants us to do the right thing, with the right motives and for the right reasons. He wants us to do His will, with His heart and for His glory. The first is external, the last two are internal. Yet, we are often obsessed with the externals rather than the internals. yet the Bible tells us that “God looks at the heart.” [1 Samuel 16:17] God is not impressed by our acts praise and worship until our hearts are impressed by and worship only Him. As a matter of fact, “anything that is not done in faith is sin.” [Rom 14:23]

God wants your heart more than your acts. Caring for the poor, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless are noble acts. Yet, they are as filthy rags before God if not done from a knowledge of Him and a faith rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ crucified. The Gospel not only makes the wrong people right, it also makes the right actions right. Righteousness is righteousness because the Cross is in it. Obedience is obedience because the Cross is in it. Goodness is goodness because the Cross is in it. Without the Cross, it is simply false righteousness, vain obedience and ungodly goodness.

It is Jesus who makes it all right, not by our blind/surface imitation of Him, but through our embracing of His Gospel in faith.

Perhaps the most important question then is not WWJD but WIJ (Who Is Jesus?) Do you know Him? What does His death mean to you? How does His life, death and resurrection shape your everyday life moments? Cain, Saul and Judas did not believe God. They sinned because they did not care about what God had to say about their hearts and His rules. And even when confronted with their failure, Cain hid in denial, Saul got defensive and Judas ended up suicidal. None of them came to repentance. None of them embraced the Gospel.

Only the Gospel can make our righteousness right. Only the Cross can make our goodness good.

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