August 23, 2006

Who’s Right?

2006 1524 page5 capartin Accad, academic dean of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Lebanon, was teaching a two-week class at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California, when the conflict between Israel and Lebanon escalated in July. Unable to return home, he found time to write a passionate article about the Middle East crisis, which was printed by Christianity Today on its Web site.1
“I think that some pseudo-biblically motivated Christians with decision power, who believe ‘that apocalyptic destruction is a precursor to global salvation,’ are presently working toward provoking a Middle Eastern conflict of regional significance in order finally to settle accounts with Hezbollah- and Hamas-supporting Syria, Iran, Lebanon, and Palestine, who have committed the crime . . . of making their hatred for Israel ‘crystal clear,’” Accad wrote. “And how dare they, since the said state has only been acting as an aggressor and racist colonial state with neighbor-exterminating tendencies from the moment of its inception?”
Strong words, spoken with conviction, but Israel prime minister Ehud Olmert sees it differently. In a New York Times report that same week, Olmert said he held the Lebanese government responsible for the assault by Hezbollah, the Shiite Muslim group that participates in Lebanese politics but also continues to battle Israel.
2006 1524 page5“I want to make clear that the [capturing of two Israeli soldiers] is not a terror act, but an act of a sovereign state that attacked Israel without reason,” Olmert reportedly said in the Times. “The government of Lebanon, of which Hezbollah is a part, is trying to shake the stability of the region.”2
Two widely different perspectives, but which one is right?
Conflicts throughout history to prove the “rightness” of a cause are not unique to today’s world—nor to just countries and nations. They also happen daily in our individual worlds—in the church, in the home, in the community. Whether a contemporary praise team or classical organ music is the most conducive to strengthening the sense of God’s presence in the church, or whether the local park should give way to allow room for greater commercial growth are real issues—relevant issues—that quickly define a line between two groups wielding opposite viewpoints—and both groups believe strongly that they are “right.”
How we determine which cause is actually right, is not always easy. Numerous factors come into play—early training, opinions of peers, perspectives presented by news media, books we read, our genetic makeup. These all influence us as we form opinions about what is right and wrong. Therefore, if something seems right to me, must it be right for everyone else?
Making honest attempts to understand one another, to be broad-minded, to “put ourselves in one another’s shoes,” are directives we should not ignore. This way of thinking represents maturity in developing people skills and empathy. And being right isn’t always what is most important. Dealing with others in a respectful and caring manner often represents Christ much more fully than zealously making it clear that our stand on a doctrine or a healthful lifestyle principle is the one supported by the Bible.
But are there also times when we need to ground ourselves in the belief that we are right about an issue? When we need to “stand firm” when the majority viewpoint is against us? Historic figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr., George Washington, and the Pilgrims who fled Britain for America would answer a resounding “Yes!”
In the book Maranatha, page 209, Ellen White wrote: “I saw our people in great distress, weeping, and praying, pleading the sure promises of God, while the wicked were all around us, mocking us, and threatening to destroy us. . . . The whole world was converted and in harmony with the Sunday law, and this little feeble people stood out in defiance of the laws of the land, and the laws of God, and claimed to be the only ones right on the earth. (Emphasis supplied.)
I read those lines and wondered, “How will that be possible?” But the answer was in the next paragraph: “God’s people . . . are to take their stand on the living Word—‘It is written.’”
We can’t be certain of our own opinions, but we can be certain of God’s.

Sandra Blackmer is news editor of the Adventist Review.