The Idolatry of Being Right
Updated: Nov 8, 2021
I was talking with a dear friend about COVID. We disagree on almost all things controversial these days:
You know, pretty vanilla stuff.
We listen to each other, humbly disagree with each other, and try to convince the other of “our side.” It never works, but we have quietly proven that our foundation is not on these issues. We may well believe the other’s position is dangerous and even destructive.
But what we both denounce is the idolatry of being right.
This is something missing in the church. We have added much to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Political and social issues have been tearing the church apart, especially in the last few years. This does NOT mean we should ignore these issues and not pull them into the light of the gospel. What it does mean is that we can stop writing each other off as unredeemable.
In the first century, the Jewish religious leaders were obsessed with purity laws -- codes having to do with clean and unclean foods and rituals, sabbath day laws, and circumcision.
Today’s purity “laws” have to do with culture wars of race, sex and gender, and have been influenced by politics. As the pharisaical laws were in the 1st century, these are a distraction from the gospel.
In my many conversations with believers over the past few years, something alarming has surfaced. The Christianity I was taught -- the Christianity of the Bible -- has somehow shifted.
Christians have always told me that love, forgiveness, and the fruit of the spirit is what Christianity is all about -- following Jesus, believing in and knowing him. But I discovered that many don’t really believe this at all. They believe it’s about being right. They believe it’s about correctness. They believe it’s about “truth.”
On multiple occasions, the religious leaders tried to trap Jesus into a binary, “right/wrong” argument. They gave Jesus false dilemmas. They were searching for their right answer that they called “truth.” Masterfully, Jesus gave an answer that caused them (and all those listening) to focus on the kingdom of God -- loving Him and loving our neighbor. Jesus wanted them to focus on Him. He let them know that HE was the truth, not their grasp on laws and customs.*
Christians have made the idea of “being right” on issues as important as following Jesus Christ. Whenever we do this, it is called idolatry.
This is a sensitive issue. Many people have been hurt by stances on social and political issues. I have and will continue to fight for what I believe the Bible is teaching, especially when I see the weakest and vulnerable in our society being downtrodden. I will fight for what I think is right, but when my being right is as important as my being loving, I’m missing the point of Christianity.
Even when I know I’m right -- I KNOW it -- I can never hold onto that as tightly as to Jesus and to love.
We must approach each issue with humility, understanding that we may be in need of change, have something to learn, or may discover something new in the world or about ourselves.
Pride is the one sin that is impossible to repent of. The self-awareness that humility brings allows for change, growth, and maturity. Without humility, one is doomed.
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. ~Galatians 5:13-15
*See Matthew 12 and Luke 20 for examples.