Philip Conley's Morning Thoughts

Morning Thoughts (Proverbs 17:15 – “Equal Distinction”)

“Equal Distinction”

Proverbs 17:15, “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.”

This morning, humanity operates under perspectives and judgments with variance and uncertainty. God alone has pure, absolute knowledge of infinite scope making Him the perfect judge and unvarying authority for any and all circumstances. Years ago, I worked with a man who – though well meaning – would incorrectly assert, “People just need to accept that we all operate under different varying shades of gray in life.” While I understand that people do have a lot of gray areas in life, judgment, and circumstances, such should not be the case all the time. The Lord has given us plain declaration of things that are right and wrong, true and false, and proper and improper. Most of the time, our “gray area” comes from an unwillingness to do what is needed rather than being ignorant of what is needful for a situation.

In our study verse, the wise man asserts two opposite situations that are equal in the Lord’s eyes. Whether someone is accepting someone or something that is not right or not accepting something or someone that is right, both of them are equal to God’s perspective: abomination. To understand how weighty this is, simply compile a list of wrongdoings from Scripture and note how selective God is in using the term “abomination.” It is something that He reserves selectively and uses sparingly. Therefore, when something merits abomination in the sight of the Lord, it should powerfully impress us.

One of the reasons that this verse needs to be put on display in our mind’s eye is that all of us drift towards one of these or the other. Let us explain it this way. Some people are bent towards niceness and are willing to “go along to get along.” Under the moniker of “peacemakers,” they will say, “Well, I would rather err on the side of charity.” In so doing, it becomes easier for this mindset to justify the wicked or make allowances for things that are not right. On the other hand, other people are bent towards firm stances on what they value as being the proper course. Under the moniker of “conviction,” they will say, “I would rather err on the side of truth.” In so doing, it becomes easier for this mindset to condemn the just by hammering things that do not fit inside their box. Kind reader, do you see yourself in one of these two camps? I certainly understand which way I am bent in my makeup and disposition.

When we see other people that fall into the opposite “camp” from our general course of thinking, we might say, “I don’t see how they do that.” For those that are bent towards charity, they do not understand how people can be so hard-nosed about things that they themselves deem unnecessary and nonessential. For those that are bent towards truth, they do not understand how people can be so lax and tolerating about things that they themselves deem wrong and shameful. It is easier for us to make allowances for people who think like we do, though we should always be looking for ways to expand and grow our thinking to improve our weak points and move ever closer to the mark of Jesus Christ our Lord. Since none of us are there yet, we have moving and growing to do right now.

Let us consider two Bible characters that highlight this point. For a time, Barnabas and Paul travelled together in the book of Acts as yokefellows in the ministry. From Scriptural record, they seem to be very different men in disposition and makeup. Barnabas was a brother of consolation and an encourager. He was one of the first to recommend Paul to the brethren as no longer the dreaded and feared Saul of Tarsus. Paul was one who could be flinty and hard nosed for a battle. He was the one who had the courage to stand up to Peter and say, “You’re wrong. This is your fault.” The church today still has men who generally fit one of these bills more than the other. Some men/ministers are good at encouragement, while others are good at standing against wrong when errors creep upon the borders of Zion. Truth be told, Zion needs both for her wellbeing, and even tougher truth, we need to grow into maturity in both avenues as full grown trees by the well watered rivers of Canaan.

In my short time on earth, I have seen good-minded men swallow and tolerate things for far too long that should have been dealt with swiftly to prevent damage to the sheep of God’s pasture. I have also seen men stand so viciously opposed to mindsets and ideas that were not un-Scriptural to prevent damage to the sheep of God’s pasture. Did we notice the similarity? Both ended up in the same place: damage to the sheep of God’s pasture. How could two opposing mindsets end up in the same place? Because both are alike an abomination to the Lord. Whether someone is being charitable and justifying the wicked in the process or standing upon conviction and condemning the just, the Lord holds both in equal distinction. We may frown at one more than the other, but God views both the same.

Over time, I have had to refine and hone different parts of my mindset. Sometimes our minds can be like pendulums. We may say, “I need to become more charitable” and end up being too tolerant. We may say, “I need to become more convicted” and end up too harsh or critical. In the end, we need to understand the starting point. Whether someone desires to err on the side of charity or truth, the point is the same. We are starting with erring! When I was in school, a teacher gave me a nugget that has helped my mindset in many avenues of life. She said, “When you approach an assignment, make it your goal to ace it. Though you won’t ace everything, by shooting for it, your ceiling is at its potential.” In other words, if your goal is just to make a B, you cede ground automatically. No, you will not make 100% on everything, but shooting for it gets you closer than if you just shot for 90%. In marksmanship, there is an expression called “aim small, miss small.” If your goal is just to hit the target, then any variance leads to a great miss. If your goal is as close to center as possible, a miss will still be close to the mark and still generally on target. In our lives, we need to start by saying, “I want to hit the mark.” When we miss, the variance will be smaller, and we will not justify the wicked or condemn the righteous nearly as often as we would by ceding ground to one direction or the other. Let us today refocus, aim truer, and make the mark of Jesus our starting point in all things.

In Hope,
Bro Philip

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