Have you ever been slapped into attention by a particular topic from the Bible? I have! The topic was forgiveness. In the short span of about two days, I heard two of the godliest men I’ve ever had the privilege of learning from teach on that very topic. You can’t ignore that kind of divine poke in the ribs! This all led me to begin considering forgiveness in light of a particular perspective.

Do we have a right to be right?

If we know in our heart that we are right (scripturally, morally and intuitively), what rights do we have? Consider some the answers I found:

I and My Father are one.” Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?” The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.”

John 10:30-33


While ministering in Jerusalem, the Jewish authorities attempt for a third time to stone Jesus. He had just asserted that He and the Father were one; in effect, claiming His deity. What He’d said was most certainly the truth, but how did the authorities of the day respond to such truth? They sought to kill Him. Did Jesus remain and assert His right to be right?

Therefore they sought again to seize Him, but He escaped out of their hand. And He went away again beyond the Jordan to the place where John was baptizing at first, and there He stayed.

John 10:39-40


Jesus withdrew and went into a place beyond the Jordan River. Jesus understood God’s timing. He knew that standing toe-to-toe at this point in time, even with the certainty of His authority, would be manifestly unproductive. Sometimes, even when you are right, it’s better to withdraw rather than press your point. I didn’t like that as a solution. You see, when I am right, I can be so very good at being righteously indignant. However, I was compelled to consider these passages a little further.

Where did Jesus go? He withdrew to Perea, where John had preached and baptized Him before Jesus opened His public ministry. I found it ironic that Jesus went to a place identified with a special defining moment in His ministry. He returned to Perea, where His public ministry began, just before He would, for the last time, turn His face toward Jerusalem and His ultimate death. Like Elijah, Jesus went to a place of beginnings. Just beyond the Jordan was a place of descents or endings. How ironic, or was it? You see Jesus did nothing apart from the perfect Will of God.

If we name Christ as our Lord, we are to follow His example. Paul urges just that in 1 Corinthians 11:1 when he challenges us to imitate him (Paul), as he also imitates Christ. In Matthew 16, Jesus calls us to follow His example in very dramatic terms.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

Matthew 16:24


What Jesus demands from His disciples, and from us, is total commitment. This was a call to full surrender, a call to life-or-death devotion to Christ. In light of this, I had to return to my initial question: Do we have a right to be right? What rights do we have? If God were to ask, would you give up your right to be right? Would God ever do that?

He does every time He calls us to forgive and reconcile with another brother or sister in the Lord. When it comes to forgiveness, we have no rights to stand on. We are not in ourselves worthy of forgiveness. God’s forgiveness of us through Christ demands that we forgive others. End of argument. The right to be right collapses before the matchless power of grace, because grace brings responsibility and obligation. Jesus put no limitation on the scope to which we are to forgive each other. The reference to “seventy times seven” in Matthew 18:22 is not a limitation, but rather an illustration of going way beyond what we think is humanly possible.

To what lengths are you willing to go to forgive and be reconciled? Would you be willing to walk away from a situation before your right to be right led you to commit sin? Would you be willing to give up your right to be right? Which is more important: being right or being obedient to the gracious command of our Lord?



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