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Right Or Wrong

by E. L. Jorgenson

There can be no neutrality and no “no man’s land” between right and wrong; between sincerity and hypocrisy in the realm of motive; between truth and error in the realm of thought; between right and wrong in the realm of conduct. These are days when motives are not scrutinized, when doctrinal correctness is not demanded, and when the lines between right and wrong behavior are much be-dimmed.

There are a number of ways by which even well-meaning men evade and avoid taking a stand for the hard right against the easy wrong.

  1. By “pairing off” our own mistakes with the mistakes of others. “I make so many mistakes myself that I cannot find it in my heart to reprove or discipline my erring brother.” There is something sweet and humble about that; yet, followed out, it would make meaningless such passages as these: “Them that sin reprove in the sight* of all;” “Reprove, rebuke;” “Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction;” and it would rob the church of all disciplinary authority. If we are not “good enough” to rebuke sin, then the remedy is not to forbear, but to get good enough—by the grace of God.
  2. By condoning misconduct and bearing beyond proper limits with misbehavior because the guilty party is sincere in a degree and conscientious in his doctrinal positions. This is a sincere difficulty with many people. It will help to make a distinction between doctrinal error and actual misconduct. We bear with our brother who is conscientious in some doctrinal error— even to the point of full fellowship when the error is not fundamental and especially when it does not directly affect congregational practice; but sincerity in some doctrinal error cannot make up for misbehavior, misconduct, misrepresentation and the like.

It will help also to consider that this second method of shifting responsibility would take in almost anybody. It would take in easily those who crucified Christ (Acts 3:17) Saul the persecutor (Acts 23:11) those who stoned Stephen, the troublers of the church at Antioch and in Corinth whom Paul so terrifically denounced. It would condone the darkest crimes of history; the crimes of the crusades and many atrocities of the present war; for the deepest, darkest, most diabolical deeds have been committed by men so blinded and so deluded that they thought they were doing God service. Just as a drunk man is responsible for murder because he is responsible for getting drunk, so a man is accountable for misconduct even though led by a blind zeal, because there is a point of responsibility for being blinded, blinded.

  1. A third means by which men often excuse themselves for taking a stand crops out in the saying, “There are two sides to every question.” There are indeed two sides to every question, but one is the wrong side and there is only one right side. It crops out in the common sentence, “There is wrong on both sides.” It is often true in a controversy that there is wrong on both sides; it usually becomes true if the controversy is allowed to run—which God never intended a difference to do (Matt· 18: 15-17; Romans 16:17); for surely the sore will spread, and therefore God says, Settle it quickly one way or another. But it is not always true that there is wrong on both sides. It was not true in the controversies between Moses and others of Israel. Moses made mistakes—for which he failed of Canaan—but never in such a fashion but that God again and again vindicated his side. It was not true in the controversy between Elijah on the one hand and Ahab and the prophets of Baal on the other. It was not true in the controversies between Christ and the religious leaders of His time. It was not true in Peter’s controversy with Ananias and Sapphira. It was not true in the case of Stephen versus his stoners. It was not true at Antioch or Corinth or throughout Galatia, where Paul had to cross continually with misguided religious zealots—and members of the church they were too! It is not always true that there is wrong on both sides; and to so excuse yourself for failing to take a stand (unless you know it to be true) is to make a craven compromise. There is no neutrality between right and wrong and no “no man’s land.” And shame be upon the slacker!

 

-E. L. Jorgenson, June 1918 Word & Work

 




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