September 14, 1993
Many a child has heard the proverb, “Two wrongs don’t make a right,” particularly after getting caught in a lie meant to deliver themselves from the consequences of some other wrong they did.
Like all proverbs, this one is generally true. The closest exception I know of was when our house contractor put an outlet and switches where a cupboard addition would cover them up (making their location illegal) and misjudged the size of a closet in the front hall.
They thought they would have to rip out a huge area of ceramic tile to correct the first wrong but when they opened up the wall on the opposite side to fix the closet, they exposed the electrical wiring for the kitchen problem. They easily fixed both at the same time, but since both errors were costly to the builder and a nuisance to us, we still have to conclude two wrongs are still two wrongs.
Wrong is also wrong when disaster strikes in other, more extreme, ways. The optimists around us may say, “It will work out okay,” and sometimes it does, but unexpected financial reverses, natural disasters, traffic accidents, sudden deaths, personal failures and moral downfalls can never be called right. Adding two of them together doesn’t help at all towards making them anything but wrong.
However, that does not mean good is left totally out of the equation. A favorite passage of Scripture, Romans 8:28, affirms that God can do something about the wrongs. It says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
Since “all things” includes tragic losses, illnesses, or other dark times in our lives, well-meaning people sometimes use this verse to try to comfort us. If we feel they are saying the wrong is good, or good for us in some way, their words hurt, and so they should; that is not what God is saying in Romans 8:28.
Pain and suffering are not His idea. Wrong things came into the world with sin as part of the package. God hates sin and He does not take pleasure in affliction or death. He would never say, “this wrong thing is good for you.” He is not cruel or sadistic.
What Romans 8:28 does say is that God can use all things, good or bad, right or wrong, for our good. In other words, wrong is never right but by the grace of God, it does not have to have the final word.
The promise of verse 28 makes more sense when we compare the last phrase “according to His purpose” with the next verse which says, “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son....”
In plainer English, this says God knew ahead of time about all those who would become Christians, and with that knowledge it is His plan to change them to be like Jesus Christ. His power is so great that He is able to use anything that happens to us to do it.
We need to remember God draws a line between right and wrong and never changes one into the other. Nor is it His goal that all the dirty deals of life and the wrongs that slap us down cause us to be defeated or bitter. Instead, He longs for our good. What better goal could He have, or what higher good could happen to us than becoming more like Jesus?