I used to think that I was right. That was back when I thought it mattered. In fact, for a long time, being right was the most important thing about being a Christian. We went to school to learn why we were right. We studied books all about this. It was called apologetics. Now don’t get me wrong; apologetics is a good thing, and the work of apologists is important to removing barriers to faith. My favorite writers like Blaise Pascal, C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, and Frederick Buechner were (and are) great apologists for the Christian faith. But at some point you have to realize that being right is way overrated. Being right doesn’t save anyone. The Pharisees thought they were right and look where it got them.
The best thing about being right is that it assures you about the way of salvation. The worst thing is that it can separate you in your thinking from everyone who is not right, and anything that makes you think of yourself as in a different category from anyone else is dangerous thinking indeed. Being right places one not only in a different category, but in a category that is above all those who are wrong.
The important thing is to realize that being right doesn’t save anyone. There is only one who saves and that one is Jesus, and He doesn’t save those who think they are right; He saves those who know they are wrong, and those who desperately need a savior. He saves those who see themselves as the worst of sinners. He saves those who call on Him in their guilt and their shame — those who cannot place themselves in good standing with anyone but the lowest of the low — those who embrace all sinners at the foot of the cross — the woman caught in adultery, the Gentile “dog” who was grateful to eat the crumbs from the table of those who were obviously “right,” the prostitute who anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and wiped them with her hair, the thief on the cross who begged Jesus to remember him when He came in to His kingdom, and the sinner on his knees who pleaded for God to have mercy on him while the Pharisee was praising God for how “right” he was.
Jesus did not come to save those who are right, but those who know they are wrong.
Blaise Pascal, probably the greatest of all the writers I listed above, wrote volumes of material, all of which is a long argument in support of belief in God and the Christian faith. In it he was proving to himself and to the world that Christianity was right. Yet that alone did not save him. He came to Christ like all the rest of us as a desperate sinner, and he wrote about his encounter with the Lord in a poem that he had sown into the sleeve of his coat until his death eight years later. Here is that poem.
The year of grace 1654,
Monday, 23 November, feast of St. Clement, pope and martyr, and others in the martyrology.
Vigil of St. Chrysogonus, martyr, and others.
From about half past ten at night until about half past midnight,
GOD of Abraham, GOD of Isaac, GOD of Jacob
not of the philosophers and of the learned.
Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace.
GOD of Jesus Christ.
My God and your God.
Your GOD will be my God.
Forgetfulness of the world and of everything, except GOD.
He is only found by the ways taught in the Gospel.
Grandeur of the human soul.
Righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you.
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
I have departed from him:
They have forsaken me, the fount of living water.
My God, will you leave me?
Let me not be separated from him forever.
This is eternal life, that they know you, the one true God, and the one that you sent, Jesus Christ.
I left him; I fled him, renounced, crucified.
Let me never be separated from him.
He is only kept securely by the ways taught in the Gospel:
Renunciation, total and sweet.
Complete submission to Jesus Christ and to my director.
Eternally in joy for a day’s exercise on the earth.
Not to forget your words. Amen.