Many today think that it is ok to do something wrong or questionable if it leads to a good end result. You might have heard this as the “Ends justify the means.” It is a saying that promotes that morally wrong actions are sometimes necessary to achieve morally right outcomes. What is being communicated is that what is morally right or wrong actions are determined by virtue of the outcome. The challenge for the follower of Jesus is that we are called to a higher standard. Our lives should be one of God honoring choices which then produce God revealing outcomes.
You should not be surprised that Jesus himself reminds us that the pursuit of Godly choices will produce Godly outcomes. He suggests in fact that it is the morally right outcomes that reveal the moral correctness of the path chosen. I am thinking about Jesus’ monologue on the virtue of John the Baptist recorded in Matthew 11. He reminds us that no one that has been “born” of woman is greater that John. This is high praise from the Creator of humanity! It is in the context of this passage that we are reminded that God’s people press forward in a broken and often hostile world. “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.” (Matthew 11:12) The more we learn about the world in the times of Jesus, the more we learn about the world of our day. Most of us know the story of John the Baptist. He was a simple man that was scorned by the world, he was despised by the religious establishment, he was a thorn in the flesh to those living for themselves and a threat to the secular powers of his time. John as you know lost his life because he stood up for what is right by pointing out the sin of a government official. His head on a platter was the price for speaking the truth.
What stands out with Jesus’ discourse on John, is that John was not protesting cultural wrongs but simply living the truth and sharing God’s message of hope with others. Reading through this passage I am reminded that we are never justified in living an ungodly life, speaking in an ungodly way, or acting in the ungodly manner because we disagree with another. We are not permitted to destroy another person’s reputation behind their back to another (gossip). We are not permitted to get even (bitterness, jealousy.) We are not permitted to act in an ungodly way. We are called to allow room for our Godly behavior and testimony to speak into the lives of others. The Apostle Peter reminds us that we are to act in such a way that produces a good conscience. “having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” (1 Peter 3:16) He also reminds us that it is better to suffer as a result of doing good rather than for participating in evil.
The Lord even reminds us that He was questioned and attacked for living a life in obedience to the Father. “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”” (Matthew 11:19) The bottom line is found in the last phrase of this verse, “Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” What he is saying is that Godly means will result in Godly results that are a testimony to others. This was the testimony of John’s life back then and even today as we read the account.
Let me leave you with the challenge that if John could make godly choices in a hostile world so can you. “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matthew 11:11)
-Pastor Joe Parkinson