We live in the age of self-righteous indignation. The age of not only the thought, “I am right and you are wrong,” but the age of, “I am right and you are wrong — how DARE you disagree with me!” Where words like “homophobe” and “supremacist” are pasted upon people like a disgraceful character badge if one disagrees with certain philosophies. Today is a cancel culture where, if your beliefs do not align with a vocal minority — your ideals are not only dismissed; they are mocked. The actor Morgan Freeman said, “Just because I disagree with you doesn’t mean I hate you. We need to relearn that in our society.” He is so right.
The problem with self-righteous indignation is that it is… hello… SELF-righteous. It is a seeking to apply what one person deems as righteous to the rest of society regardless of the convictions of members IN that society. Self-righteousness always leads to mistrust, and even hate, because there is no measurable quality to what one deems as righteous. If we seek to determine what is right based upon our own fallen and fallible nature we will sometimes be wrong.
But you know what? Self-righteousness has been around for a long time; it’s not a new concept in human history. In fact, Jesus dealt with self-righteous people all of the time. In Luke 13 Jesus was teaching on the Sabbath in one of the Jewish synagogues where he encountered a woman possessed by an evil spirit that had kept her bent over double for EIGHTEEN YEARS! She was completely unable to straighten up at all. Can you imagine what that must have been like?
Luke writes, “When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’ Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.” Luke 13:12-13
WOW! What a scene! Eighteen years of suffering ended in a moment! Everyone must have been overjoyed to witness that!
Hold on there… not EVERYONE… because Luke tells us, “Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, ‘There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days. Not on the Sabbath.’” WHAT. THE. WORLD! Are you kidding me? One of this leader’s people has been SET FREE from bondage that had lasted eighteen years and he tells her she should come back on another day to be healed — the Sabbath is just too holy for personal healing to take place?
Well, Jesus called him out over his self-righteous attempt to discredit the work he had done in that woman’s life. I really love Luke’s final commentary on this event. “When he said this all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.” (vs. 17) The people were delighted… of course they were! Here was a religious figure not judging them… but one who cared about them… one who loved them and demonstrated it. Jesus taught and demonstrated freedom from self-righteousness and the people were delighted.
Hopefully we can learn a lesson from that grumpy, self-righteous synagogue leader and be a bit more like Jesus. Jesus saw the desperate need of that woman and compassion moved him to action. It didn’t matter where he was or what day it was — he chose to set her free. I know it is tough for the Christian to navigate culture today, because there is a vocal minority shouting loudly to discredit biblical principles. While it is important for Christians to hold to their convictions, let’s seek to do it following the example of Jesus. Let’s refuse to act self-righteously and instead react in love. Compassion delights people.