Knowing What Is Right

KNOWING WHAT IS RIGHT and DOING WHAT IS RIGHT are two steps in the right direction.  This month our focus will be KNOWING WHAT IS RIGHT.  Next month our topic will be DOING WHAT IS RIGHT, an emphasis on having the courage to stand up to others when their speech or action opposes what is right and still proceeding to do the right thing.  We can be quick to criticize others when we disapprove of what they are doing or have done but it requires courage to stand up to them stating what you believe to be right.

But before we can take a stand for what is right, we have to figure out what is right.  What we believe to be right is in our value system that begins soon after birth and we continually add to that value system as we grow older and mature.  We gradually figure out what those around us as well as those in society consider to be right (the two could be very different) and we also determine as we mature whether to accept those guides to right behavior.  Some children do not grow up in a family that demonstrates a desire to do what society says is right and what God has said is definitely right.  But we have an inborn sense of right and wrong (when someone is kind to us we sense that is right but if someone harms us we sense it is wrong).  In addition, other adults including teachers as well as our friends provide models for what is right.  With all of these inputs into our value system, the result is that each of has a unique value system.

Our value system will help us to understand and accept what is right.  We develop or accept some standards against which to measure various behaviors to determine what is right.  The Bible is our best guide in finding standards of what God says is right.  The Bible contains some very specific directives about behavior such as The Ten Commandments but in other areas there are only general guidelines to tell us what is right.  The Old Testament alone tells us 248 times what to do and 365 times what not to do.  The New Testament provides guides to thought and behavior that will be pleasing to God as well.  Many of these are direct commands from Jesus Christ.  We must then take these messages and apply them to the situations we face or create.  If the commands of the Bible are deeply rooted in our values, they become our conscience to guide us in whatever our situation.  Whatever that situation is (created by us or others), it will be affected by our attitude.  

Our attitude should be based on this admonition:  “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.  Do everything in love.” (1 Cor 16:13-14)  When a behavior is done in genuine love (and meets the test of common sense), it is likely to be right behavior, assuming others do not misguide us about how to demonstrate love or common sense.  Any behavior motivated by hatred or getting even is bound to be wrong behavior.

In addition to following God’s rules, there are the rules of mankind.  These are generally consistent with God’s rules with enforcement and penalties by society for those who break the rules.  These are necessary to provide an orderly life (such as traffic laws) and for protection against those who seek to harm or abuse the rights of others.  When some claim rights that violate the rights of others, society will be the judge.  However, when politically driven rights challenge religious rights, Christians must take a stand.

Knowing what is right should not be a perplexing issue for an active Christian.  We have taken a stand on many issues in the past and stand firm on those issues. The Bible gives sufficient direction in either the behaviors we are told to avoid as well as the general direction to do unto others as we would have them do to us.  In all things we are to love one another.  When our Christian faith leads us to love one another, we are already close to knowing what is right and being the person God wants us to be.  In making your next decision, will you understand what is right?

Study questions are available for this program.  You can obtain them by writing to [email protected] or 1226 Knox Valley Drive, Brentwood, TN 37027.


These study questions are intended for use with God’s Plan for Service, KNOWING WHAT IS RIGHT.  The primary purpose of the study questions is to help the reader to more fully grasp the significance and implications of the topic.  Recipients may send responses to God’s Plan for Service by email to [email protected] or mail to GPS, 1226 Knox Valley Drive, Brentwood, TN 37027. 

  1. To what extent do you feel you have a good grasp on what is right?
  2. To what extent do you feel you have a good grasp on what is wrong?
  3. Recount a situation in which you took a stand for what you concluded was right even though it was not a popular decision.

Kenneth W. Oosting, Ph.D.

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