There is no greater sin than being right, in this world. Adolf Hitler earned the title of being the worst tyrant of the twentieth century. But some people may respect Hitler for standing for what he thought was right. He still believed in his convictions and committed suicide before he could be captured. He died truly believing that he was right. There are many, like him, causing a lot of suffering to other people, without seeing wrongness in what they would be doing.
This world grants recognition to those standing for what they believe to be right. That is not, necessarily, what grants the heavenly crown. The rightness of one’s conviction is different from the rightness of Jesus. Following the rightness of Jesus is different from the rightness out of one’s own conviction. Scriptures reveal that the righteousness of humanity is likened to filthy rags.
Our own late former president, Robert Mugabe could not be shaken by what he stood for, assuming he was right. Many people supported him, even from outside our borders. But, fortunately for him, he gave a mild admission of having been wrong, before his death. One hopes that his admittance was genuine and sufficient for God to forgive him of all sins committed during his leadership. Otherwise, Gehenna would be waiting for him. The same applies to the late former apartheid president of South Africa.
Some self-righteous people may have not accepted F. de Klerk’s apology, as not publicly expressed before his death. But one assumes he may escape Gehenna, reserved for those maintaining being right. What should be important is that he died after having noticed the wrongness of what he had considered right. His accusers may be those maintaining the assumption of being right. But for such “righteous” people, Gehenna is waiting for them, unless they repent.
Worst criminals die with the conviction of being right. The sins of humanity are engrossed in assuming being right when making others wrong. Such people can be respected for their stands, but Gehenna would be waiting for them. Biblical evidence is revealed in granting deliverance to a tax collector, admitting wrongness, rather than the Pharisee maintaining rightness.
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men-robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:10-14 NIV).
The righteous Pharisee was condemned, yet the tax collector admitting being sinful was justified. The tax collector was forthright in admitting his sinfulness, without saying many words. This is how the sinful tax collector accessed God’s mercy, confirming what God expects of humanity.
The Bible indicates that righteous people are to be redeemed on the last day. But those people are not recorded as regarding themselves as righteous. They would be surprised, being among those said to be righteous, at that time. Those mentioned in that Scripture are not Christians, as known today.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me’” (Matthew 25:34-40 NIV).
Two things deserve taking note of, in this episode. The people being referred to as righteous are not Christians, as known today. Christians would be those Jesus, referred to as His brothers, fed by the righteous. Jesus’ brothers are not necessarily righteous, as belonging to Christ. Secondly, this is happening on the Last Great Day, as shown in the Book of Revelation.
“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books”(Revelation 20:11-15 NIV).
This is after a one-thousand-year period, of Christ’s reign, with the Saints; resurrected as shown in Revelations 20:4-5. These are Jesus’ brothers, fed and clothed by the righteous ones. But of note is that the ones considered righteous are not aware of having been righteous. These are different from those calling themselves Christians, assuming being righteous and superciliously pleasing God:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23 NIV).
This is another evidence of people, reserved for Gehenna. These people would be consciously aware of doing righteous acts for God. But Christ is saying He never knew them, notwithstanding their good performances, in His name. The key lies in considering themselves as righteous. This is consistent with the previously exposed righteous Pharisee, and what happened at the cross:
“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’” (Luke 23:39-43 NIV).
To most people, the first criminal was heroic—standing by his conviction of being right. He expected Jesus to behave likewise. However, that mindset was the opposite of his counterpart, aware of his sinfulness. That remorseful criminal attracted Jesus’ mercy, for him to enter paradise.
Salvation comes when accepting being wrong, rather than when assuming being right. What eludes many people is associating the work of Jesus with human beings. Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me”(Matthew 25:40 NIV).
What is observable among fellow Christians is invalidating God’s servants according to perception. There are those who proudly assume that belonging to a particular denomination, makes them more truthful than others. Anything not coming from their pastor is regarded as suspect, even with evidence of Jesus’ approval. Interestingly, one often hears such Christians denouncing Pharisees for having rejected Jesus on the same behavioural basis.
“Among the crowds, there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, ‘He is a good man.’ Others replied, ‘No, he deceives the people.’ But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the Jews. Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. The Jews were amazed and asked, ‘How did this man get such learning without having studied?’ Jesus answered, ‘My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me.’ If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own’”(John 7:12-17 NIV).
It ought to be a matter of choosing to do God’s will, whether anyone’s teaching comes from God or from one’s own. Nothing has changed between what happened then and what happens today. Whatever was done to Christ is done to His servants, whom Jesus calls His brothers. Whatever treatment or invalidation is given to His servants, the victim is Jesus.
God’s truth remains paramount, just as it was paramount when He was here. Being hated and ill-treated by arrogant people should give confidence to His servants. The most important thing is that God’s work does not invite discomfiture to His servants, whether out of invalidation or anything else.
“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?”(John 5:39-44 NIV).
It is impossible for proud people to see God’s truth. The parable of the sower reveals that the sower casts the seed randomly. Some of the seeds fell on rocks others fell on highways to be trampled and others choked by the thorns. However, some of those seeds fell on fertile soil, so they would produce good yields. The rich soil does not respond, based on the sower’s quality.
This is vital as people traditionally consider the background of those used, rather than God’s word. Rarely do people evaluate information without looking at the background of the preacher. A wise person evaluates information about Christ, as no one can be certain of who Christ uses at any given time. True Christians are just as unpopular as Jesus was unpopular.
This is a clue, hoping that someone out there would take heed. This idea of desiring to maintain being right is not what leads to God’s Kingdom. There cannot be any room for the proud people, in God’s Kingdom. If what is written here does not make sense to anyone reading, there is no need to worry. The message is not for that reader. This message is for whoever finds it making sense.
Nevertheless, Jesus said He did not come for the righteous, but for sinners. Indeed, there are many righteous people in this world. There is no doubt about that. But salvation comes from Jesus, without anyone else involved. The prerogative of Jesus using any person from anywhere, in this world, remains His. As human as we are, no one can assume to be truthful, more than others.
“What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: ‘So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.” But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) Certainly not! ‘If that were so, how could God judge the world? Someone might argue, ‘If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?’”(Romans 3:3-7 NIV).
Righteousness is found in Jesus only. Therefore, there is no reason to feel jealous about anyone being used by Christ at any given time. Let the work of Jesus be done through anyone and by anyone. Those able to discern the voice of Jesus would heed. However, those inclined to curse would curse, whether Jesus was here physically, or not—but glory belongs to God.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. Most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope, in a simple conversational tone.
The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99