Doing What is Right
By Laura Sandretti
As a brand new Christian I remember overhearing an older, wiser woman at my church say she would never use The Message Bible. Many people I knew, pastors I had heard, and authors I read used and cited this paraphrase of the Bible, but after hearing my mentor condemn it, I remember wondering who was “right”? I also remember trying to figure out who was right in other areas of my life. I had heard a plethora of conflicting opinions from Christians about trick-or-treat, yoga, and even what worship music was “right.”
Today, I am in seminary and have been a Christ-follower for almost two decades. I have listened to countless sermons from Tim Keller, Bill Hybels, and Stuart Briscoe. I have taken classes on systematic theology and apologetics, and I have studied under some very knowledgeable professors. I have tried to teach and model biblical living to my three teenagers and yet, unfortunately, I’m quite certain I’m more confused about who’s “right” than ever before.
I’ve been on both sides of who’s “right” when it comes to issues theologians, pastors, the churched, and the unchurched can sometimes disagree on.
Too often I have considered myself someone who’s right. I have secretly and not so secretly judged others in the church who I felt were compromising God’s Word. I have judged believers who I felt were too lax in their understanding, application, and teaching of God’s Word. I have accused others of reading into the Bible that which makes their life and actions comfortable, justified, and unchanged.
I have also been accused of being on the other side of who’s right. Not long ago, I accepted an invitation to be the guest speaker for my church’s four weekend services. Afterward I was shamed and criticized for my decision on social media, in person, and in a congregational meeting.
A few months ago, I wrote a blog sharing how I write a word under my wedding ring in permanent marker every morning from the passage of Scripture I read that day to help me meditate on God’s Word. I was later criticized on social media about the post because “tattoos are a sin.” I have spoken and written about ministering to a friend who is a homosexual and since then I have been told by Christians I am not following God’s Word regarding homosexuality, yet I have been told by other Christians I am hateful toward gays.
Many Christians have many conflicting opinions about many different biblical issues. So, who’s right?
Being on both sides of who’s right has taught me that following Jesus is less about who’s right and more about what’s right. Having been both the judger and the judged has helped me realize, although I may not always be able to discern who’s correct, I can do what’s correct. How do we do what’s right when other Christians (including the one looking back at us in the mirror) are so concerned with who’s right?
Ask for Humility
The more I learn about Greek, Hebrew, and hermeneutics, the more I realize how little I know. I read Isaiah 40:12, “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?” and see how small I am, how little I know and how big God is. Yet in an instant, I will accuse others of being wrong about God, the Bible, and how they are living their lives. I can become so arrogant that I subconsciously believe I have single-handedly and unmistakably unraveled issues Martin Luther, Augustine, and Calvin could not resolve. How do I do what’s right? By continuing to ask God every day to keep use humble because pride and arrogance can so easily be our default without even realizing it.
Assume the Best
When I was on the wrong side of who’s right, I had less than Christ-like feelings toward those accusing me. Who were they to question my theology, heart, and faith? But when the Lord challenges us to do what’s right, we need to look at those who we think are wrong or who think we’re wrong in a more compassionate light. God reminded me when I was accused of being wrong that those who were questioning me, loved Him too. They loved God’s Word as much as I did. Although I wanted to demonize the people who were judging me, God reminded me that their intentions, hearts, and motives were probably good. And even if they weren’t, only God is able to judge hearts (Rom. 2:2-3). When we assume the best about those we’re judging or those judging us, who’s right becomes inconsequential and we are able to focus more on doing what’s right instead.
What’s right when we don’t agree on who’s right? I have learned that doing what’s right means doing the uncomfortable; talking face to face with those who are upset with us or with whom we are in a holy disagreement. No matter who is right or wrong, as believers, we need to have the courage, mutual respect, and love to talk to each other in person whenever possible. There are too many things that can be misconstrued when we send a message or email (no matter how many smiley faces we use). When we type a text or email, we also tend to say things we would not have the courage to say in person, and as a result, we can end up causing irreparable pain and damage. After you pray, do what’s right and meet face to face and trust the Holy Spirit with your words or with your silence.
Allow God to Finish
A long-time friend told me I had overtly disobeyed 1 Timothy 2:12 when I taught at the weekend services at our church. I asked her if we could meet. We talked, cried, and prayed for two hours, then parted ways with warm smiles and an amicable hug. Later, however, my friend messaged me that she was still struggling with my theology and decision. I was admittedly frustrated. I didn’t want to keep defending myself for a decision I had reached with much fear and trembling and only after much consternation, prayer, and time in the Word. It was clear, however, I was not going to convince my friend of anything and God reminded me later that I had prayed about it and didn’t need to. Sometimes after we’ve met face to face, we do what’s right by praying for all parties involved, asking God to reveal any truths He wants us to learn, and then trusting Him with the rest.
Always Be Nice.
Perhaps the most important “what’s right” when we don’t agree on who’s right, is to speak the truth in love. Sarcastic, condescending, arrogant attitudes and words are not the mark of mature believers—regardless of who’s right. When I have found myself with a pit in my stomach, and my face feels hot and I’m shaking, I know it is time to pray. When I speak out of anger or anxiety it’s difficult for me to be nice. If I can’t speak kindly to other believers when we don’t agree, how can I be a witness to a lost world? When I have been hurt by believers I have had the tendency to feel they should know better. However, I have had to remember and ask God for help living out Colossians 3:13: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
What do we do when we don’t know who’s right? We accept that there are more things we don’t know than we do. We acknowledge we may never know who’s right, but we always have the opportunity to do what’s right. Doing what is right is never getting even or having the last word. Doing what’s right is difficult, unpopular, and usually feels very unsatisfying, but when we become consumed with who’s right, even in Jesus’ name, we risk not only doing what’s wrong, but also hurting those for whom Christ died in the process.