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When Accepting Wrong Is Right

It was once said that a certain man was like a porcupine — he had a lot of fine points but was hard to get close to. Members of the church in first century Corinth were like that. First Corinthians 6:1-8 describes the shocking situation. People who shared a pew on Sunday were suing each other in secular courts on Monday! Assembling to join heads, hands, and supposedly hearts around the Lord's Table on the Lord's Day; then meeting to lock horns before a non-Christian judge the next day! A riled-up apostle Paul took the church behind the woodshed for a good old-fashioned thrashing. "Brother goes to law against brother — and that before unbelievers!  ...I say this to your shame. ...It is an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another... you do these things to your brethren" (6:6-8). All of this, Paul states bluntly, is wrong (6:8a). Read the passage right now and mentally note the times you read the word "against." Paul was clear being against each other made it impossible for them to be for Christ Though right about baptism, they were wrong about brotherhood. "Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?" Paul asks with an ache in his heart (6:8b). There are times when the right thing to do is to accept wrong. Wrong and unjust and unfair treatment, that is, without retaliation or a stubborn, unbending spirit of malice and unforgiveness.

Roger Conner, executive director of Washington's American Alliance for Rights and Responsibilities, said, "I have this image of human beings as porcupines, with rights as their quills. When the quills are activated, people can't touch each other." That touchiness "is the visible fruit of the rise of self-absorbed individualism" over the past few decades. "The R word in our language is responsibility, and it has dropped from the policy dialogue in America. A society can't operate if everyone has rights and no one has responsibilities" (8/12/91, p 17). There were touchy, over-sensitive, self-absorbed people sitting in the pews at Corinth, more concerned about their rights than their Christian responsibilities. All bent out of shape because someone had "done them wrong." But in their attempt to right the wrong someone did to them, Paul accuses them, "You yourselves do wrong" (6:8). Their touchiness kept them apart. Instead of saying a prayer, they sent a subpoena. Instead of meeting at the cross, they met in court. Instead of practicing love, they pursued a lawsuit. Their touchiness was keeping them apart, and in their misguided attempt to help themselves, they were hurting the church. No one ever righted a wrong by doing more wrong. Sometimes the right thing to do is to accept wrong for the sake of Christ and His church.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ