Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about people who do evil but think they are doing good. We’ve all known those folks. They have a keen sense of right and wrong, especially when it comes to others and, particularly, in the church. It has been my experience that the most disruptive and, ultimately, destructive people have a high sense of “righteousness” for everyone besides themselves. If I actually believed in a devil, I would think that these are the kinds of people the devil goes around looking for, not bad people, but broken people who are willing to break others in the name of God.
Ninety percent of church conflicts are created by people who are determined to do what is “right” without considering the pain and destruction they cause along the way. I recently was consulting with a church at which the pastor was under siege by two people who were questioning his moral fitness to lead the congregation. Over a cup of coffee, he told me that these same two people had tried to get rid of a pastor in a church across town a few years ago. “What irritates me most,” he said, “is not how they feel about me, but that they have no idea how everyone else feels about them.”
Scottish poet Robert Burns was right:
O, wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion.
It is an incredible gift to see ourselves as clearly as we think we see others. Self-righteous people are put in our lives as a fearsome reminder of the danger to us all. You see no one ever thinks they are the ones doing harm. You don’t think you are, and I don’t think I am. You have spent this entire devotion wondering who I’m writing about, who is doing evil when they think they are doing good. The answer? Me.
Rev. Michael Piazza