The Constant Need To Be Right?

Text: Luke 10:23-37

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

In the Gospel of Luke, we read that the lawyer – when challenged by Jesus – desired to justify himself. Now, the word ‘desire’ is definitely accurate. However, we probably should use the word ‘determined’ instead to capture the full force of the lawyer’s emotions. In other words, this lawyer was determined to be right and validated that day as he visited with Jesus. Jesus most definitely challenged the lawyer, which resulted in the lawyer having a great urge and pressure to justify himself – to be right and affirmed. And right there, wanting to justify himself before Jesus, is where we see the failure of human nature.   
Dear friends, every day, we wake up and interact with other people. And as we interact, we will constantly be trying to have their recognition. And to make things worse, every day, we are also trying to justify ourselves in our minds. And so, this world that we live in will either give us affirmation or deny us recognition, which will keep us bouncing back and forth, feeling affirmed and powerful some days, while other days feeling rejected and alone. And again, this is at the core of our human nature because of sin. We must feel validated, affirmed, and supported in this life to exist. 
Think of it this way: our lives are constantly on trial before others and ourselves. Our neighbors act like a prosecutor and judge while we are on trial as the accused. And guess what, we do the same to our neighbors, and so, they feel like the accused before you and me. Again, our whole life seems to be one continuous trial where we try to make excuses for our actions and convince others (and ourselves) that we are good, right, and true. From the clothing we wear to the jobs we work to the friends we have to the cars we drive to the words we use and the activities that we are involved with – everything we do is to try and obtain continuous validation, affirmation, and support in this life. Indeed, we always want to feel right – to feel validated, just like that lawyer from our reading in the Gospel of Luke.  
Now, I am certainly not a psychologist; however, I can still say with a great amount of certainty that many of our emotional struggles in America are not psychological or mental but theological. You see, we must keep in mind that biblical theology is not just a bunch of theories about the afterlife. No, biblical theology is very practical and very relevant. As it has already been stated, sin permeates all of life. It is like the air that we breathe but do not see. And so, behind every narcissistic personality is a man clamoring to justify himself before his coworkers and before God because of the effects of sin. Behind every egocentric woman is a fearful lady propping herself up, trying to earn the recognition of the world and other women, because deep down, sin has made her fearful of not being seen or validated by others. Behind all the busy-body gossip in churches and coffee shops, behind all the superficial judging of others, behind all the self-absorbed social media posts, and all the silly jockeying for power that we do in our tiny little worlds - is a bunch of sinners trying to muddle through this life… sinners seeking affirmation, validation, and to be right in a world gone wrong. 
Dear friends, here is the blunt truth for you today. That lawyer in our reading from the Gospel of Luke was under a great curse. As a sinner, he was under compulsion to justify himself. And so are you and I, without the Gospel.  
Please hear me loud and clear. Sin has infected you, this world, and me. And without the Gospel, there is only one way to live this life, and that is to go the way of constantly having to justify and prove ourselves before God and others. Mark this; this kind of acting and thinking is a terrible curse – feeling pressure and the need to always be on trial and always trying to prop oneself up in this world is not freedom but a hellish existence. It is exhausting, and it is unending. It leads to inflated egos, the need to perform, narcissism, self-absorption, manipulation of others, despair, depression, fear, and ultimately the darkness of death. If there is no Gospel, then there is no solution. And if there is no solution, then everything depends on your need to justify yourselves, validate yourselves, and affirm yourselves in this harsh and competitive world.  
But, dear friends, there is Gospel for you because there is a Savior for you.  
You see, the lawyer did not realize that the solution to his desire and determination to be justified was right there before him. Right there before him was Jesus. But get this; the solution was not that the lawyer had to do anything for Jesus to obtain eternal life. But instead, the lawyer simply needed to stop. He needed to stop doing, stop speaking, and stop testing Jesus. He just needed to stop. In other words, this Christian faith is not about you and me thinking, acting, or behaving a certain way to be justified. Unlike this rat race world, with all its clamoring, seeking, climbing, and determination to be affirmed and validated, Christianity is the exact opposite. It is not about you and me. The Christian faith is not about your self-fulfillment, how pious you are, or how well-behaved you are. The Christian faith does not look inward to you. The Christian faith does not spend all of its energy with silly questions of how many commandments we fulfill to earn Jesus’ approval; or stupid self-affirmation slogans, “I’m good; Jesus paints a smile in me;” or coffee mug slogans talking about how you can do great things with your great faith; and so on. This is all garbage theology because it is still pointing back to you and me. Instead of getting you and me entangled with ourselves, the Christian faith looks at only One Person and it looks at only one thing - Jesus Christ and His gifts for you. 
Baptized Saints, in the God-Man, Christ Jesus, you are completely and totally justified – forgiven of all your sins. You have complete and total affirmation in Christ – you are declared a Baptized Saint, an heir to the Kingdom of God. In your Baptisms, you have been snatched from darkness and already have one foot in the Kingdom of Heaven. You have a foretaste of the feast to come in the Holy Supper. In Christ, the Father is completely and totally well-pleased with you.  
And so, because Jesus is 100% for you, and because you have received His gifts, you are free from the constant need to acquire recognition from others. Listen up; if you have the full favor of God Almighty through Christ Jesus – which you already do – why would you need the affirmation of other people that are in the process of dying, just like you? If you have the full satisfaction of the forgiveness of sins in Christ, along with the Father’s pleasure and the hope of the resurrection, why would you need validation, affirmation, and support from stuffy institutions and bloated authority in this life? 
But does this Gospel mean that we can do whatever we want – that we are somehow above the criticism of our neighbors? Heavens no! It means the exact opposite. It means that when we do sin, we can quickly confess our sins, remedy the sin, and forgive the sins of others because, well… we are hidden in Christ and not the ongoing tit-for-tat trials and drama of mankind. Because we live in Christ, we are quick to confess and quick to do better for our neighbor. 
Frankly stated, because Jesus is your full and complete justification, you don’t have to worry about yourself because Jesus has already done that for you. And so, you are perfectly free – above all the games of mankind and subject to nobody’s petty way of thinking. Yet, you are also a servant to everyone in need, willing to help everyone in your life because you don’t need to spend all your time justifying yourself. Christ has already done that for you. 
Baptized Saints, your ego is no longer central – Christ is. Your identity is in Him, for you have been Crucified with Christ. You have been buried and resurrected in Him through your Baptism so that you are no longer driven to try and impress God and your neighbor by silly and wasteful spiritual games but simply trust in the God that justified sinners as a sheer gift. 
Christ is your affirmation, your validation, your justification – your all in all – for He lived for you, died for you, was resurrected for you, and intercedes for you at the right hand of the Father. To Him be glory, and to you be God’s peace.   
In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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