When Wrong is Right

Did you hear last week about the man in upstate New York? A strong snowstorm had come in causing a friend of Jay Withey to get stuck in his car. He needed help, so he called Jay to come rescue him. Unfortunately, the snow piled higher, and like many rescue attempts, Jay got stuck too. On the highway among many other snow-buried drivers calling 911 and waiting for help, Jay realized that no such aid was coming, and gas was running low. He started going house to house, offering up to $500 to sleep on the floor of nearby homes but was turned away over and over. All the while he started collecting other drivers; a woman in her 70s, a young man only wearing a light jacket, none of which would survive the night unless they found shelter. Realizing that drastic measures needed to be taken, the group of 20 found a school and Jay broke the window to get in. There they found food and shelter for the long, cold, deadly night.

Breaking and entering, theft, vandalism of state property; who knows how many laws they broke. But it was the right thing to do. Obviously. So obvious that he left a note apologizing and the local police chief hailed him as a hero. Everyone knows that doing the wrong thing was the right thing.  

Jay was in some ways the anti-King Saul like when he offered the sacrifice in place of Samuel and the priests in 1 Sam. 13. Offering sacrifices before battle was the right thing to do, but Saul was not allowed to do it. He did it anyway and was condemned. Later in 15:22, Samuel summarizes Saul’s life: “Has YHWH as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the YHWH? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.” In Saul’s case, doing the right thing was the wrong thing, because he was not loyal to God. This idea is constantly repeated in Scripture. “For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant; There they have dealt treacherously against Me.” (Hosea 6:6-7).

Alternatively, King David did a few wrong things, but it could be argued that some were the right thing to do. On one such occasion, Jesus had some comments. “But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? “Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent?” (Matt. 12:3-5). I don’t know that Jesus is arguing that David was perfectly in the right or that the priests were wrong, but David was loyal, and so escaped the death penalty (Num. 18). Jesus is more loyal (v. 6-7). What is our view of what’s right and wrong? Are we loyal to God, or are breaking and keeping the law a function of what we think is right?