Voices: Deny yourself the right to be right

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We all have heard it: Being right is overrated. In response, we might also say, “Being right isn’t biblical.”

I am not talking about the righteousness of God (Proverbs 21:21). When his righteousness is displayed and we operate from his spirit, our words, actions and deeds are right and divine.

Rather, I am speaking of human right-ness: right as seen through our eyes, heard by our ears and based on our understanding. Even brothers and sisters in Christ often think human right-ness is right.

During this season of Lent, when we are denying ourselves for spiritual growth, we can use biblical stories to illustrate the necessity of denying ourselves the right to be right.

How Joseph gave up the right to be right

Joseph’s story of denying himself the right to be right is well-known. His brothers despised him, conspired against him and sold him to slave traders while telling their father that Joseph was mauled by an animal. Because of the dreams God gave Joseph for his life, Joseph endured in this amazing story in Genesis.

After his brothers’ deliberate acts of hate and loathing, God blessed Joseph with tremendous power and authority in Egypt. Due to a famine in the land, the brothers ended up desperately needing Joseph.

To many of us, their need created an opportunity for payback. Yet, Joseph demonstrated godly wisdom.

“You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good,” Joseph told his brothers (Genesis 50:20).

Joseph’s use of godly wisdom teaches us to act like God rather than to react based on our right-ness and understanding. This allows God full range to use our circumstances.

How David gave up the right to be right

In a similar manner, David humbled himself under the authority of Saul and ultimately to God. This story of life and death demonstrates that our life truly is in God’s hands and our death is according to his timing.

Saul’s attempts to kill David are detailed in 1 Samuel 19. His jealousy and rage toward David were on full display. Yet, God spared David’s life and David spared Saul’s life (1 Samuel 24), despite being advised to do otherwise. Not only did David deny himself the right to be right, but he also denied himself the right to self-defense. Upon Saul’s death—not at David’s hand—David was crowned king and blessed Saul’s descendants.

If we humble ourselves—even in dire life and death situations—God is faithful to exalt us (1 Peter 5:6). Our act of humility demonstrates God’s reign.

How a loving dad gave up the right to be right

Loving hard, loving unconditionally and loving often is such an act of God. This love is demonstrated beautifully by the prodigal son’s father (Luke 15:11-32). As we see unconditional love demonstrated by the father, we also see him denying himself the right to be right after acquiescing to his son’s request to have his share of money.

Upon the son’s return, most of us would agree with the father if he showed “tough love” or if he required his son to “work for the money” he wasted. However, we see the father running to his son, embracing him in loving arms and celebrating him like royalty.

We know the story. The celebration of love happens after the son has lived wildly, wasted his money and eaten with pigs. He returns home and asks for forgiveness. His father demonstrates the love of our heavenly Father.

Educators work in the realm of manmade standards, rules and regulations. Yet, at times, our standard of right and rules of engagement should be gleaned through the lens of God’s word.

How do we practice our Christian walk when our students have been overtly wrong?

Do we remember our wrong-doings and open our hearts for forgiveness (Psalm 103:12)?

How do we show the love of God beyond academic teaching and demonstrate to students a Psalm 23:6 kind of love?

As we deny ourselves this season and beyond, let’s remember: Instead of being right, let us pray for godly wisdom, humility and the ability to love hard.

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Prayer: You say in your word not to “lean on our own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5), but all too often, we lose the battle against our natural instincts. Help us, Lord, continually to be more like you and to respond as you would have us to do. And when we fall, Lord, help us to repent quickly, to ask for forgiveness and to get it right. Thank you, God, that we can lean and depend on you for guidance. Amen

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Lisa M. Rainey, Ph.D., is an experienced educator. She and her husband, Daniel, are members of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas.

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