In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. – Judges 17:6
In the time of the judges, still the early days for Israel, everyone did what was right in his own eyes. We’re tempted to believe that this was an affliction particular to Israel, or to the ancient days. After all, they were still newly in the land…they had a lot to learn. But we would be sadly mistaken to think that. We are just as susceptible, if not more so, today. Now, I’m sure that as you read these words you’ve already got people in your mind for whom this fits the bill…but that would be wrong too.
The tricky thing about everyone doing what is right in their own eyes is this…we have our way thats right…those people over there have theirs…and so forth and so on. In fact, it would seem that these days we’ve all gone off into our own little groups and sub-groups. We spend time with people who think like this, we share articles on facebook and send e-mails of things that speak exactly the message we want to say and never a word about anything that does agree with our own personal perspective. And oh heaven help those poor souls who are called to leadership or public service if we don’t agree with them! In our eyes they’re bent on nothing more than the destruction of all the I hold dear and, of course, they are all that is wrong with the world! One is left to wonder, where is charity? Where is understanding? Where is basic decency?
I would seem that when we look at the context in which we live today in the light of holy scripture we are people that this verse speaks very loudly too. All of us do what is right in our own eyes…and there seems to be a lack of leadership…or if I might be so bold to say…their is a lack of recognizing and submitting to the leadership that God has provided us with. During the time of the judges we hear that there were no leaders…and chaos was the result. God’s solution was to send prophets…but the people didn’t like God’s solution…oh how often that happens! So then he sent them kings (we’ll see more about this in the next few devotions)…in all reality though the kings were more of a disaster then we might like to admit. In the fullness of time God sent his son Jesus…and we didn’t submit to him…we crucified him. After Jesus had ascended to heaven he sent the apostles and…well…all you have to do is read Paul’s letters to see that people didn’t much care for those leaders either.
We don’t like leaders…we prefer to do what is right in our own eyes. We don’t much care for the practice of submitting to something larger than ourselves…this is our human condition that we are called upon to accept if we take seriously God’s holy word. But, to submit yourself to a disciple that is larger than yourself…to submit yourself to teaching, and guidance, and correction in the community and under the leadership God has called and set apart is to make a profound confession of faith. It is to confess that we are sinful…that we want things to be our own way…but that way is not always best for us. It is to also confess that God is really at working in this world. You see, God doesn’t just work in magical ways…God works in ways that we can see…he works in places, like the church…he works in people too, like those who have been called and set apart for his service…and, perhaps most importantly, God works in specific means…means like his Word and his Sacraments. Any church, any leader, any person who is in conflict with these is in conflict with God…they are guilty of doing in their own eyes what is right…instead of what God says is right.