Sondagaand Diens Clanwilliam
English Version: Whose Right is it anyway?

In the light of the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard defamation trial, my thoughts turn to the question, who is right? The jury will eventually decide who they believe was right, but after the outcome, some will certainly still disagree.  

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25) Whose right wins for all, not just the one?  Whose right decisions bear sustainable good fruit? This statement describes a culture where everyone does what is right in his or her own eyes and no one any longer regards moral absolutes.   

Moral righteousness is part of human survival because humans function in groups, and we have to adhere to a common law of rightness to maintain good order and balance. We naturally group ourselves according to vested common personal interest and advertently restrain ourselves from another perceived unrighteous group.

The problem is when we enact our wrong-doing against an innocent person, based on the wrong done to us. The original wrong-doing and perpetrator roams free, unpunished, now I become the perpetrator and the evil cycle continues.

ENTITLEMENT AS A COVER-UP FOR SIN 

The battle of whose right is truly right ensued since the beginning of time. Cain believed he had a right to murder his brother because his offering was accepted, instead of of his own.  He should have approached God, asking: “Why was my sacrifice rejected?” so, he can grow and improve, instead he took offence and murdered an innocent.  He never repented, and when punished was only thinking of himself.  “And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear.” (Gen 4:13)  My father in law used to say: “Two wrongs do not make a right” This is a proverb used to rebuke or renounce wrongful conduct as a response to another’s transgression. 

Nonetheless, this is a common tendency: A husband loses his temper because the way his wives speak to him.  He angrily justifies his outrage, breaking furniture, hitting holes in the door, and smashing a cell phone: “You made me do this!!!” “Look what you’ve make me do!” 

A perceived loyal husband by his friends and family commits adultery and is unfaithful to his wife. His secret justification? He works hard, is mostly the least, feels trapped in an unfair situation in which he can do nothing, feels he is not valued, and feels used. He does not deal with his unhappiness in a healthy way and eventually cannot resist the temptation to feed his flesh.  

Someone who has been set free from drug addiction suddenly experiences tremendous temptation to use again.  His secret justification? He believes he works hard, has made huge sacrifices, poured himself out, always remains the least, and keeps quiet in an argument.  Instead of nourishing the flesh in a healthy way through exercise, and doing something meaningful he wastes time with superficial relaxation like binge TV series viewing. His flesh remains unfulfilled and hungry and begins to become a monster out of control.  

FREEDOM OF CHOICE – Consequences?

One can justify anything if you have to, but not all is profitable. All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being. (1 Cor 10:23-24) 

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. (1 Cor 6:12) 

I remember watching a documentary of Moses Sithole and how he justified every murder, and his eyes did nothing wrong.  By the time Sithole’s trial began on October 21, 1996, mounting evidence saw the total charges against him increase to 38 counts of murder, 40 counts of rape and six counts of robbery. He pleaded not guilty to all charges. [1]

Most people know that the violent Capone was taken down by that least likely of weapons—a group of accountants focused on his tax returns. [2] He also never accepted any blame for what he has done.  

The greatest of problems with humanity is our smoke-screen of self-righteousness! We hide our sins. We cheat and lie! We are afraid of punishment and cover our nakedness with fig leaves! 

NOT ALL RIGHTS ARE GOOD FOR EVERYONE IN THE LONG TERM

Years ago, Mrs Judy Mouton former mayor of Cederberg Municipality brought a speech in our church about being a Christian Political Leader.  Her quest was; whose right in a diverse community of needs and wants, is a priority? How does God view these needs? Whose right does He attend to first? In the light of white people mostly complaining about the potholes and high taxes, the brown people about the shortage of houses, 600 hundred black people families were residing on a hill with only two toilets and one tap.  Whose right deserves God’s and our attention? She opted to relieve the plight of the black people, but lost the forth-coming election.  Sometimes doing what is right is going to cost you! 

Think of the many fights between brothers and sisters about who is right? Whose right? Fairness happens at first when all sides of the story have been heard. One always wants to tell the news about what the other has done wrong.  

Political movements begin, because of some perceived injustice, and begins to draw activists who would fight for the cause of a particular disenfranchised group.  Currently, an unknown community group of activists and protestors burn houses and farms in protest for higher wages. [3] What is the sustainable good of this uprising, and how is it improving relationships? How is it really improving lives in the long term? 

The judiciary exists because people cannot decide their own right action, so there must be an independent impartial fair system that delivers a righteous judgment.  

Without a biblical criterion, each defends his own right and comes nowhere.  One must have a constitution that defends both rich and poor’s rights and then look at each case’s merits and background on what is right or wrong.  The Bible consistently gives a balanced judgment.

THE ROLE OF UPBRINGING

We read of two narratives in the Bible where upbringing played a huge role in the rightness of the children.  Why was Abraham chosen to be the father of a new nation, at the time childness, and a heathen from the Chaldeans? What did God see in Him, to have chosen Him? 

since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him. Gen 18:18-19 

He was chosen because: I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice.  

Contrastingly, we read of another spiritual giant who failed to teach his children rightness! 

Now it came to pass when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice. Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” 1 Sam 8:1-4 

H6666. צְדָקָה ṣeḏāqāh: A feminine noun meaning righteousness, blameless conduct, and integrity. The noun describes justice, right actions, and right attitudes, as expected from both God and people when they judge. God came speaking justice and righteousness as the divine Judge (Isa. 63:1; Jer. 9:24[23]; Mic. 7:9); the Lord’s holiness was made known by His righteousness in judgments (Isa. 5:16; 10:22). Human judges were to imitate the divine Judge in righteousness and justice (Gen. 18:19; 2 Sam. 8:15; Ps. 72:3; Isa. 56:1). The word describes the attitude and actions God had and expected His people to maintain. He is unequivocally righteous; righteousness is entirely His prerogative. His people are to sow righteousness, and they will receive the same in return (Hos. 10:12). He dealt with His people according to their righteousness and blamelessness (2 Sam. 22:21; Ezek. 3:20). Faith in God was counted as righteousness to Abraham (Gen. 15:6); and obedience to the Lord’s Law was further evidence of faith that God considered as righteousness (Deut. 6:25). Returning a poor man’s cloak was an act of obedience that was considered righteous and just before the Lord (Deut. 24:13). Jacob declared that his integrity (honesty, righteousness) would speak for him in the future to Laban (Gen. 30:33). The lives of people are to reflect righteousness and integrity (Prov. 8:20; 15:9); even old age may be attained by living a life of righteousness (Prov. 16:31). The noun describes the justice of God or His will: persons are to act according to God’s righteousness toward other persons (Deut. 33:21; Isa. 48:1). The word is also synonymous with truth or integrity. God declares His words are based on His own truthfulness (Isa. 45:23). The word depicts God’s salvation or deliverance, such as when Isaiah spoke of the Lord bringing near His righteousness as equal to bringing near His salvation (Isa. 46:13; 51:6; 56:1). The word may indicate a just claim before the king (2 Sam. 19:28[29]); or the righteous claim for vindication God gives to His people (Neh. 2:20; Isa. 54:17). A person who was denied justice but was righteous was, in fact, innocent (Isa. 5:23). In the plural, the word referred to the righteous acts that God performed for His people (1 Sam. 12:7); or, in the plural used in an abstract sense, it depicted people living righteously (Isa. 33:15). The word was used to mean legitimate and blameless, referring to the Lord’s righteous Branch (Jer. 23:5; 33:15) who will act justly and righteously in the restored land.

H4941. מִשְׁפָּט mišpāṭ: A masculine noun meaning a judgment, a legal decision, a legal case, a claim, proper, rectitude. The word connotes several variations in meanings depending on the context. It is used to describe a legal decision or judgment rendered: it describes a legal decision given by God to be followed by the people (Isa. 58:2; Zeph. 2:3; Mal. 2:17). These decisions could come through the use of the Urim and Thummim (Num. 27:21). The high priest wore a pouch called the breastpiece of justice, containing the Urim and Thummim by which decisions were obtained from the Lord (Ex. 28:30). Doing what was right and just in the Lord’s eyes was far more important than presenting sacrifices to Him (Gen. 18:19; Prov. 21:3, 15). God was declared to be the Judge of the whole earth who rendered justice faithfully (Gen. 18:25; Isa. 30:18). In the plural form, the word describes legal judgments, cases, examples, laws, and specifications. The word describes the legal case or cause presented by someone. The Servant spoken of by Isaiah asked who brought his case of justice against him (Isa. 50:8); Job brought his case to vindicate himself (Job 13:18; 23:4). The legal claim or control in a situation is also described by the word. Samuel warned the people of the civil and legal demands a king would place on them (1 Sam. 8:9); Moses gave legislation to protect the rightful claim of daughters (Ex. 21:9). The Hebrew word also described the legal right to property (Jer. 32:8). Not surprisingly, the place where judgments were rendered was also described by this word; disputes were to be taken to the place of judgment (Deut. 25:1). Solomon built a hall of justice where he served as judge (1 Kgs. 7:7). The word also describes plans or instructions: it describes the building plans for the Tabernacle (Ex. 35); and the specifications for the Temple (1 Kgs. 6:38); the instructions the angelic messenger gave to Samson’s parents about how he was to be brought up (Judg. 13:12). In a more abstract sense, it depicts the manner of life a people followed, such as the Sidonians (Judg. 18:7; 1 Sam. 2:13). The word means simple justice in some contexts, often in parallel with synonymous words, such as ḥōq (H2706) or ṣeḏeq (H6664), meaning ordinance or righteousness. It describes justice as one thing Jerusalem was to be filled with along with righteousness (Isa. 1:21). Justice and righteousness characterize the Lord’s throne (Ps. 89:14[15]); and these were coupled with love and faithfulness (cf. Ps. 101:1; 111:7). Executing or doing justice was the central goal that Yahweh had for His people (Jer. 7:5; Ezek. 18:8), for that equalled righteousness (Ezek. 18:9).

A BIBLICAL STANDARD 

The Bible has tested moral absolutes as summarised in the 10 Commandments that serve as a protection for man and his family.  

Care/harm, 

Liberty/oppression

Fairness/cheating

Loyalty/betrayal,

Authority/subversion,

Sanctity/degradation

When these moral absolutes are adhered to and respected in the fear of the Lord, who sees and knows everything, it brings joy to the people.  Whereas the pleasure of sin is short-lived bringing eventual painful and destructive consequences. 

No one likes and enjoys the restrictions and boundaries of the law, but when the tables are turned and we become the victims of crime, we value the importance of the law.  

WE SHOULD RESIST EVIL CULTURE 

Whoever says to the wicked, “You are in the right,” will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations, but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will come upon them. (Proverbs 24:24-25)

Enough, O princes of Israel! Remove violence and plundering, execute justice and righteousness, and stop dispossessing My people,” says the Lord GOD. “You shall have honest scales. (Eze 45:9-10)

You shall not follow a crowd to do evil;  (Exo 23:2)

In the end “So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.” Hosea 12:6 


[1] https://www.biography.com/crime-figure/moses-sithole

[2] https://www.themarshallproject.org/2018/05/28/defending-al-capone

[3] https://www.farmersweekly.co.za/agri-news/south-africa/talks-between-sundays-river-valley-workers-and-farmers-deadlocked/