It’s no secret that our culture is all about telling us to do what feels good. I think many people who do not share my faith would raise an eyebrow at me, wondering what other way there is to make decisions. Go with your gut. Trust your heart, not your head. Do whatever makes you happy. If it feels right, do it. These are all phrases commonly heard in our culture, and I cringe when I hear them, because they are leading an entire culture astray.
Let’s just call it what it is. Making our decisions based on what “feels good” is selfish. Brass tax. And while I can argue that being selfish is not good for a society as a whole, I can more confidently declare that God tells us to be selfless (Philippians 2:3-4). So, really what we should be asking ourselves is not what feels good, but what is right.
Several years ago, my dad, who I respect more than almost any other person on this earth, was wrongly accused of a non-violent, federal crime. There was an FBI investigation and a whole lot of ugliness that went on for many years, and did a lot of damage to my family. My uncle, who was actually guilty of the crime my dad was being accused of, refused to go on the record about my dad’s innocence. Passing or sharing blame felt best to him. When the investigation finally reached a head, the government came to my dad with a deal: admit your guilt, and we’ll only send you to prison for a few months. The unspoken part of the deal was that if he maintained that he was innocent, he would almost certainly lose in court, and face a whole lot of years in prison instead. The government, with unlimited resources, is powerful against one man with almost no resources and a court-appointed attorney.
We gathered together as a family and my dad looked us all directly in the eyes and said, while the decision was very hard, he knew what was right. Lying would get him a slap on the wrist instead of a devastating beating (so to speak), but lying was not right. We all agreed with him. He was innocent, so he should not lie and say he was guilty. No matter what the consequence, he should do what was right, and he had our support. And we went into an eight-week trial.
Fast forward to the actual trial. There was a woman who was called to witness by the government (the prosecution). She said something, under oath, that I happened to know was an all-out lie, and it made my dad look really bad. I don’t know what kind of pressure she was under, or how she was persuaded to slander my dad, but had there not been a bunch of police in that courtroom ready to haul off anyone who got out of line, I would have marched right up to her myself and given her a firm slap across the face, in addition to a loud piece of my mind. I felt vengeful. I wanted her to pay.
We adjourned for the day, and our group (we had about thirty people there to support our family on a daily basis) left the building together, solemnly offering their prayers and encouragements to us. Outside, I noticed my dad had fallen behind the group. I looked back and saw the woman who had lied about him on the witness stand, arms wrapped around herself, crying. My dad went to her, consoled her, and forgave her. He did what was right.
There are a lot of examples I could draw from that experience, but honestly, what better example to draw from than Jesus on the cross?
I guarantee that wasn’t what felt good to him. His emotions were telling him to plead with the Father to spare him. He was so distraught over it that he sweat blood. That was not a man who felt like dying on a cross. Instead, he said, “Not my will, but your will be done” (Matthew 26:39). He did what was right. To us that seems obvious, because the Bible tells us so. But I’m sure there were a great many people in Jesus’s day who thought he was crazy. Why did he have to say he was the Son of God if it was going to get him killed? Why didn’t he run and hide when the soldiers came to arrest him? Why didn’t he just show everyone his power by making himself disappear, or something? Jesus knew that the hardest decision, the one that would cost him great pain and suffering, and ultimately his life, would count for all eternity and for all mankind, was not what would make him feel good. But, it was the right one.