But he wanted to justify himself image

But he wanted to justify himself

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The parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) is perhaps the best known of all the stories Jesus told. The moral lesson of the person who seemed least likely to show mercy being the one who actually did has deep resonance, for Christians and non-believers alike. It’s a great twist-in-the-tail tale and in the set-up to the parable we are given the clearest insight into human psychology: ‘But he wanted to justify himself.’

The desire to justify ourselves runs deep. A favourite trope of our cultural moment is that we should not judge, but the reality is that we do want to be judged: we want others to judge us to be in the right. The Bible gives a lot of attention to this subject, both warning us against self-justification (Mark 12:38-40) and showing us how we can be right in the way that really matters – in the judgment of God (Rom. 3:22-24).

There has been much comment this week about who we judge to be right following that interview. Among the British population the answer to that question seems to be largely influenced by age. Younger people are more likely to see the issues to be about race and side with the Sussex’s; older people that it is about duty and loyalty: the narrative of victimhood jars when expressed by someone wearing a $4,500 dress.

I feel sorry for all those involved. It is hard to see how there is any win in this – televising one’s grievances about family members can never the best method of building bridges and healing relationships. The desire to self-justify is understandable but is hardly a recipe for happy relationships. It’s not good news for the Royal Family or for Harry and Meghan.

That Oprah would never be interested in interviewing you or me is something for which we should feel profoundly grateful; but while we will never have to face that kind of exposure we can have just as strong a desire to justify ourselves. The good news of what Jesus taught us is that we don’t have to, and that is incredibly freeing. ‘Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered’ (Rom. 4:7). Yes, blessed indeed! Now, ‘Go and do likewise’.

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