I heard this advice from a preacher maybe twenty years ago. It’s not a quote from the bible. But every so often I remember these words and am once again reminded and convinced of their truth.
So I thought I would try to explain the apparent conflict of logic in this statement, and reveal some of the beauty and truth that is contained in these few words.
Sometimes we think we are right, and we may argue the point with someone who disagrees with us, maybe we realize at some point that we are actually wrong, and learn from the experience, and the argument resolves, or maybe we are stubborn and won't admit defeat, but deep down we know we are, or might be, wrong, so, at the very least, there is some prick of conscience to hold us back from total annihilation of our opponent for the sake of it. This is not what the statement is about.
Very occasionally we know beyond doubt that we are right. Whether it is because we have studied the matter in question at great depth or maybe we have first hand knowledge of details that our opponent is not privy to. The issue might be a moral one. It may be a point of theology. It may be unrelated to anything to do with God, but the important point is that we are certain of our correctness, not a single doubt, we have seen the evidence ourselves, we might even be the authors of the book in question.
The problem is how we handle being right beyond doubt.
We are never so wrong as when we are right.
This statement implies, and it is also my personal experience, that we will go further than is morally necessary to stand up for the truth, even a small point of truth.
In other words, when I am unquestionably right, and I am being questioned, that is when I will battle most fiercely, most unmercifully, most unlovingly, most viciously, most ruthlessly, most recklessly. It’s as though all controlling factors are set aside, and there is no holding back. The problem is that our pride takes over, especially when we are right, and that we do the most ungodly things when we are actually on higher moral/legal/spiritual ground. Sadly, this is terrible.
We ridicule people, we embarrass them, we belittle them. We show our ugliest side when we are right.
We are so painfully used to being wrong (our fallen nature, our sinfulness, satan’s accusations always at us), that when we are right, rather than show patience and forbearance to our opponents, we let them have it, fully, with both fists. We are left spiritually and morally worse off than if we had simply been wrong in the first place.
God is not like this. God is patient with our wrongness. When Jesus was slapped in the face for speaking the truth, he did not call down legions of angels to defend him, he simply asked why he was slapped, and to point out what he had said wrong.
I suspect war is about being right. Certainly any personal wars that I have fought have this factor involved.
We could simply live patiently with being right and pray that the person in error would have their eyes opened.
When Jesus was crucified, he prayed, “Father forgive them because they don’t know what they’re doing”.
As Christians, in our personal lives, it is good to honour this prayer, which led to our forgiveness, and to ask God to continue the great flood of grace that was poured out then.
This is why we love and forgive our enemies. They don’t know what they are doing, even if they look like they do.
By the way, we are sometimes wrong…