Many years ago, a friend and I were discussing the age-old questions about situational rightness and wrongness. I posed the question: “If someone breaks into your house and you have only two choices, kill this person or they will murder your family, is it wrong to kill the intruder?” I figured the killing would be justified by the situation.
“No,” my friend said. “It’s still wrong to kill.”
“But the other option is even worse! In this situation, it must be okay to kill to save lives.” I countered.
Being the wiser of the two of us, he replied, “True, it might seem that way. The lesser of two evils is never a “good” choice. It may be the better choice, but that does not make it “right”. Taking a life is against God’s intentions for us regardless to what it is being compared.”
Even though I continued to push back in this conversation, over time this insight began to make a great deal of sense. I have seen practical implications applied in many experiences in life: the ending of irreparably broken marriages, painful parenting decisions, ethical choices at work, setting boundaries. When forced to make a choice that is wrong—though better than the other choice—still requires a certain level of personal heartbrokenness. Finding peace after making “the better of two bad choices” still requires repentance and forgiveness (of self and others). Making these painful decisions should not result in a hard heart but rather a tender, humbled spirit. Tears should eventually follow these moments, even if one would make the same decision again, if given the same circumstances. Recognition of this paradox ultimately leads to personal peace with making the better of two bad choices.
Sometimes you might have only two choices, and both are wrong, even the better one. When a life is taken, even a life that was dangerous, still there is need for pause and remorse. When a marriage is irreparably broken, there are no winners. When a loved one is taken off life support, there is a time to mourn. When a parent has to use “tough love”, it is never what was hoped for. No one would have wished tragedy on a person, their family, or the victims involved. Tragedy is tragedy and there is no need to portray it as something good. Even the worse of humanity is created in the image of God, and tragic situations require a recognition of God’s good creation being distorted.
Faith is like the roots of a tree, with knowledge as its branches. The greater and more luxuriant the branches become, the deeper the roots need to be; else, when the storms of doubt push against the branches, the tree will fall for lack of depth and strength.Charles W. Conn
The oft-used adage “prevention is better than cure” does apply. Do everything you can to avoid being put in the situation of being left with only two bad choices. But sometimes in life you are stuck between two options, both wrong. Don’t try to self-justify or explain your actions away or simply make excuses; these things only delay the emotional journey to peace. Accept the reality of the situation and depend on the grace of God in Jesus Christ for restoration. Reformer Martin Luther wrote in 1521, “Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong (sin boldly), but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides.” Sometimes the better choice, is still a terrible choice.
confession… forgiveness… redemption… healing… hope…
There are some choices that are always right.
“Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong (sin boldly), but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides.”Martin Luther, Reformer 1521
By the way, these comments have nothing to do with the election of our next President. Don’t look outward for the “lesser of two evils”. Look inward for the unresolved pain of wrong decisions that once were made. Look upward for the promise of forgiveness. Even God once had two bad choices to make, let his Son die on a cross for the forgiveness of humanity’s Sin or let humanity (you and me) die without eternal hope. But the “better bad choice” of the crucifixion of Jesus resulted in his bodily resurrection, which gives us the presence of the Holy Spirit and hope of eternal life. This is Grace. It cost God his Son. As a result, he overcame sin and death. And this is where we find the peace that passes understanding. This was, in fact, God’s “best bad decision by far”.