Right or Wrong?

Most people would say that choosing between right and wrong is simple, straight-forward, and binary (it is either right or wrong, no in-between). While this concept works for many situations, life is actually a bit more complex than this and some decisions don’t fall neatly into one or the other.

This is not to say that I advocate ‘gray decisions’, or compromises of character or deceit. I only point out that our simplistic view of deciding right and wrong is many times more complex than we give it credit for. Maybe an example will help serve to illustrate my point…

Imagine that you are traveling down the road and come across a squirrel (or any other animal), that has been hit by a car and mortally wounded. The squirrel, however, is not dead but still alive. You stop your car and ponder what should you do? You have a few basic choices:

  1. Get back in your car and hope things turn out for the squirrel. After all, it is not your responsibility and it will either survive or die.
  2. Try to care for the squirrel in the hope that you can nurse it back to health, somehow.
  3. Kill it, and put it out of its misery, as there is little hope of recovery.

As you can tell right away, there is no real right or wrong decision here. There is a judgment that must be made based on your best experience and conscience. Killing the squirrel may be the right thing to do, but you may have reservations about killing a living thing. Trying to nurse the squirrel back to health may also seem the way to go, but if it is mortally wounded it will probably suffer and die anyway. Driving away is always an option, as you might be able to forget about it, and move on with your life. After all, there was really nothing you could have done, was there?

Why do I bring this up? I bring this up because we are faced with many decisions in life that fail to fall in the neat categories of “right” and “wrong”. They are typically hard decisions, ones with no clear answers or precedence. Do I put my ailing mother into a nursing facility? Do I take my father off life support? Do I pay down my debts now, or do I save my money for a rainy day? Do I invest my money in a new business, or do I put it away for my child’s college? Do I keep driving my car, and pay repair bills, or is it time to go into debt and buy a newer one? Do I chance that my roof will last another year, or should I go ahead and spend the money now?

While some questions might be answered through knowledge or experience, there are clearly some that defy any kind of clear “right” or “wrong” categorization. Life is full of these kinds of questions, but amazingly we mostly refuse to acknowledge they exist.

Interestingly, these types of decisions were not new to Jesus, who had to make many choices where the answers were not clear-cut. Of course, Jesus did not do anything wrong, but in many cases it was not clear to those around Him if His decisions were the right ones. When Jesus was 12 years old he wandered off from the caravan, and spent several days in the temple talking to the doctors of the law, while his parents were in despair looking for Him. Was this right?

When Jesus heard that his friend Lazarus was sick, he stayed where He was for two more days before making the journey. During that time His friend died, and there was grieving and lamentation over his death. We know that Jesus later brought Lazarus back from the dead, but what about the grieving sisters and relatives? Was this right?

These examples show us clearly that sometimes the right decisions are not always the pleasant ones. In fact, at the time they sometimes seem like the wrong ones.

So, what do we gain from this? At least a few things:

  1. Not all decisions are clear-cut and fall into nice “right” and “wrong” categories
  2. Sometimes the “right” decision is not always the pleasant one
  3. We need God’s help in making the right decisions, as it is not always clear which choice is the right one

One Response to “Right or Wrong?”

  1. Barbara L. McGuire Says:

    I really enjoyed this! Thought provoking! I think I wouldn’t have stopped to help the squirrel. He probably would have bitten me! 😦 Blessings….

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