“In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” – Judges 17:6.
Everyone seems frustrated with the condition and status of life right now. There is a feeling of insecurity, chaos, and upheaval wherever you turn. Whether it is national politics and the commentary on it, state proposals and referendums and the commentary on it, or local issues and traffic delays and the endless commentary on it. Everyone has a unique perspective and “solution” to whatever the topic of the day is or the next crisis that looms before us. We want answers! We want solutions! We want good leaders! We want what seems right … to us!
The problem is what we want is the problem. What we want is to be able to comment, criticize, question, and reprimand anyone and everyone at any time for any reason. What we want is to live our lives however we want, whenever we want, with no judgement or evaluation. What we want is to complain about the difficulties of life, others, work, our neighbors and anyone who doesn’t see life from my perspective. What we want is to do what seems right to us and that is exactly the problem.
Now don’t misunderstand me, this is not some diatribe against the evils of American culture. It is a stark and ominous referendum about me. The problem it seems to me is not about others and what they want, but about me and my resistance to do what is right. We all have the opportunity to do what is right in any given situation, but I can only control what I can do. I can do what is right in any given situation … and I often don’t as much as it pains me to admit it.
Last evening, I went to get ice cream with my fiancé. As we waited in line to order, people were laughing and recounting the day’s activities, children were excitedly deciding what to order, and people coming home from work were getting a welcomed treat at the end of the day. As we ordered, an individual slowly walked from the car to the counter to wait behind us to order. Then, it happened, we ordered our ice cream and my fiancé told the teenager at the counter that she wanted to buy the person’s meal who was behind us. And everything changed.
I was immediately thankful for generosity, kindness, compassion for others and doing what is right. I was grateful to see care and love for others put into action. I was reminded of my own self-absorption, self-isolation, and self-focus on my needs. I was encouraged to remember that the single greatest danger in my life doesn’t come from the outside or others but from the inside and my lack of willingness to see opportunities to do what is right in any given situation.
I believe this is truly my/our greatest problem: how can I do the good which I am capable of doing? Getting others to do what seems to be right isn’t really the problem. It is for each of us to do what seems right in any given situation. To make matters worse, we often know what is right to do, but we choose not to do it. We don’t need a better city, state or country, we need better people in our city, state and country. We need to examine ourselves and not be so quick to examine others. We need to do what seems right.
The Bible states, “Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.” – Romans 6:12-13.
John Wesley is often quoted as having said,
“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”
I want to invite you to choose to do what is right. Not because someone told you to or because you have to, but because you want to. Because it is the right thing to do. Because it makes this world a better place. Because it makes us more like God. Because it seems right!
Rev. David A. Carter is lead pastor at the New Beginnings United Methodist Church in Delaware.