Is being right the most important thing in the world?
Our pursuit of being right over living rightly has been costly. We have had wars, revolts, killings, terror, and devastation as a result of being right. Being right has ended numerous relationships.
The fruit of making being right an idol is division, anger, conflict, belittling, dehumanizing, and insulting.
Being right is what props up the Just War Theology – you can kill your enemy in order to save them.
Being right allows you to impose heavy burdens and demand compliance with the letter of the law.
Being right means we can label those who won’t see the truth as we see it.
Being right means there are people on our side and then there is the other side. Those people aren’t just wrong, they are stubborn for not hearing the truth. Let’s damn them. Let’s label them. Let’s call down fire or missiles from the sky and destroy them. They deserve it. We’re right and their are so clearly wrong. They are evil.
And then we’re confronted with a story:
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’
– Luke 10:29-37
Making being right an idol means asking the question – who is my neighbor? Who is on my side and who is on the other side? Who is with us and who is against us?
Being a neighbor is different. It’s costly. It looks past the labels. It doesn’t see enemies but rather people of God’s creation. It costs control over your own schedule and plans. It costs you time, money, and energy. It costs you when your friends and family and countrymen see you being a neighbor to the one they taught you was an enemy since you were young.
And it’s what we are called to be.
Being right is important. Wandering through life without a foundation or a rudder to direct you is not what we are called to. And there are limits to it. Being right at the expense of living right is not being right at all. Belief that is not carried out is empty. Faith that has no follow-up is worthless.
But I get it. It’s so much easier and you can feel so much more self-righteous when you post a meme on social media declaring how right you are and belittling those who disagree with you. I get it. It feels so much better to hold the right beliefs and keep them pure, rather then risk getting messy with someone who is lost. Much better to either avoid them or criticize them. You wouldn’t want to open yourself to their story and the possibility that you would see the world differently. It might cause you to change what you see as right. Wouldn’t want that, would we?
Being right and being a neighbor are both costly. Being right costs other people a great deal. Being a neighbor costs you a great deal. And it gives life to the one who you were a neighbor to.
Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’