Two weeks ago, I wrote about trying to forgive in my heart, not just my head. As I’ve continued since then, praying, reading Scripture, and trying to listen for the Spirit’s promptings, I’ve noticed an unflattering pattern about myself:
I want to be right.
Not right in an arrogant kind of way (though sometimes I’m guilty of that), but I want others to know I’ve tried doing the right thing in any given situation. Even if I’ve messed up, I feel attacked, defensive, and wounded if someone suggests my motives weren’t right, pure, or good. So now, I’ve been asking God what He wants me to know about why I want to be right.
Something I learned in my discipleship class last year, is God’s always at work. He’s always trying to get our attention to show us His love and free us from whatever burdens us. Whenever I’m asking God what He wants me to know about something, He gets my attention through a hundred mundane, seemingly unrelated situations and people, and He speaks to me through Scripture.
One Scripture I read in the many days I’d been praying about my desire to be right, was the story about the ten lepers. An article I found pointed out that when the lepers asked Jesus to heal them, He told them to show themselves to the priests. Along their way, they were cleansed. One leper, “when he saw he was healed” (Luke 17:15) went back to thank Jesus and was commended for doing so.
And that’s when God got my attention. Had I been among the lepers, I would’ve done the “right thing.” I would’ve gone with the nine and shown myself to the priest because that’s what Jesus said to do. I would’ve obeyed and followed directions, regardless of what my heart told me. That’s when I sensed the Lord say,
“Quit worrying about doing the “right” thing and focus on doing things right.”
Doing what I think is the “right” thing, may not be what you think is the right thing. We could both be lovely, God-fearing, trying-our-best humans, and not agree on what the right thing is. Doing the right thing, particularly in the case of forgiving people who have hurt me, is often subjective, biased, and situationally dependent.
Doing what’s right in God’s economy, however, is different. What’s always right in God’s eyes leaves less wiggle room and rationalizing. Being present to those who are hurting, clothing myself with humility, and remembering Christ made himself nothing (am I more important than He is?) are doing things right. This subtle word order has helped me realize sometimes I’m so fixated on doing the right thing, I fail to live out of my righteousness in Christ.
What am I learning about forgiveness? A lot about myself and who I’m trying to please – God or man. I’m learning it’s okay to do the right thing, but because the heart is deceitful above all else, I’m better off doing things right. I’m better off remembering that only Christ, who knows my heart, protects it, and is helping me forgive in my heart, is right
So, I don’t have to be.