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Do any of us think we are wrong about anything?
Isn’t it ironic that, in times of conflict, we all have right on our side? It doesn’t matter if the disagreement is marital, ecclesiastical, or international. Together with our allies, we hold the moral high ground.
To stay in the fight, we don’t always have to be right. We can admit our share of the wrongs. All we need to know is that we are right about something and that we are right enough to be able to filibuster against the wrongs of the other side.
These inclinations are rooted deeply in all of us. For thousands of years, our Father in heaven has been quietly and patiently reminding us that “every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts” (Proverbs 21:2).
If, together, we are ready for a second look, let’s see if we can find renewed perspective by remembering that:
A high view of God rises above the foothills of morality. The religious leaders who hated Jesus for being a friend of sinners weren’t all wrong. In many ways they were trying to take the high road. By resisting the pluralistic influence of Roman and Greek culture, they were defending a high view of God, moral law, and national honor. But they were fighting from the foothills of Sinai when the battle had moved to the way of the cross. They had missed the prophet Isaiah’s vision of a high and holy God who has a heart for bruised and broken people (Isaiah 1:16-18; 6:1-5; 57:15). And so they misunderstood Jesus.
No, the moral leaders of Israel were not all wrong. But neither were they all right. They knew the story of Job, who was an advocate for weak and defenseless people (Job 29). Yet they stripped widows of their wealth (Matthew 23:14). They were familiar with the prophet Jonah, who was sent by God to the morally depraved people of Nineveh. Yet they self-righteously condemned lost people (Luke 18:10-12). They saw the miracle that confirmed Jesus’ words when He said, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Yet they added Jesus to the list of those they would rather see condemned by law than be saved by grace (Mark 3:1-6).
A high view of the Bible rises above the foothills of understanding. We know the importance of believing what we can see with our own eyes. We recognize how important it is to honor reason, education, and common sense. Yet sometimes we ignore that same better judgment when it tells us to go to the doctor, the mechanic, or to the wise counselor who knows more than we do.
Another familiar proverb reminds us that there is also a time to trust in the Lord rather than to lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-7).
We may know that it makes sense to pray when we are in trouble. But we don’t know how God hears, when He will answer, or if He will give us our request or something better. We may be confident that He loves us. But we don’t know how He is going to show His care for us from one moment to the next. The most pagan and devout among us agree, “God works in mysterious ways.”
One way God helps us to trust Him is by speaking in mysterious pairings of ideas. He is one God in three persons; He is with us, yet beyond us; He is committed to justice, yet full of mercy; He is in control of history, yet gives us freedom of choice; He discloses Himself through self-revelation, yet shrouds Himself in secrecy (Deuteronomy 29:29; 1 Timothy 3:16). He asks us not only to trust Him for what He has made known, but also for the view that is His alone.
Such mystery does not devalue understanding. Rather it is part of our learning and growing that also teaches us how to respect and act on what we don’t know.
A high view of truth rises above the foothills of facts. Wisdom reminds us that we can be right in what we say, yet be wrong in the way we say it.
When the Bible asks us to walk in the truth, it is not just asking us to engage in an intellectual exercise. From Genesis to Revelation, we are asked for attitudes that are as true to God as the facts He has revealed.
Interestingly, when the Jewish Scriptures speak of truth, they are often referring to what we would call integrity of heart, faithfulness, and reliability of character.
Walking in the truth, therefore, requires not only the active engagement of our minds but also the warm embrace of our hearts.
If we don’t keep both in view, a generous heart can make error look like truth, just as arrogance can make truth look like error. Who can measure the confusion that occurs when truth is spoken with condemnation and self-righteousness, while lies are told with patience and love? Try to imagine a spirit world where angels speak with arrogance and demons speak with devotion to their enemies.
Truth spoken without love is devastatingly harmful. Love expressed without truth is tragically misleading.
Father in heaven, our lowest moments have not been spent serving others in the attitudes and example of Your Son. They have been the result of doing what is right in our own eyes.
So in the heat of the argument, when we are inclined to listen only to our own heart and to lean only on our own understanding, please help us to rise to the call of the words of the following old hymn.
—Mart De Haan
Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
By faith, on Heaven’s table land,
A higher plane than I have found;
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where those abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.
I want to scale the utmost height
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray till Heaven I’ve found,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”
—Johnson Oatman, Jr.
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