By Leonard Lauriault
From my younger years, I remember hearing, “Right is right and left is wrong.” While I grew up during the Cold War and many communist groups were called, “Leftist,” and many today refer to more liberal, egalitarian philosophies as being to the left, this saying had nothing to do with politics, economics, or social issues. Rather, it was a mean-heartedly ignorant statement about left-handed persons (I’m hopelessly right-handed). The basis for that outlook has a long history as indicated by the Latin root words for right (dexter) and left (sinister). Do you see the association with good and evil? Some also make a connection of right and left to sheep and goats – saints and sinners (Matthew 25: 31-46).
God doesn’t look at outward things, like what hand holds the fork or pencil – he looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16: 7; Revelation 2: 23; Hebrews 4: 12; John 1: 1). We should try to do that as well, making righteous judgments by looking at people’s hearts to judge their actions based on their intentions, which usually go hand-in-hand, whether or not they live according to God’s will (Matthew 15: 18-20; 7: 16-27, 1-5; 1 Corinthians 2: 15; John 7: 24).
Anyway, left-handed people can be equally talented (dexterous) to right-handed people. Try consistently throwing a stone at a hair without missing (Judges 20:16). God also used the left-handedness of at least one person to lead his people out of sin’s bondage and back into a right relationship with him (Judges 3: 12-30; 2: 18, 19).
But, then, there are the sheep and goats described in Matthew 25, where the goats are put on the left and punished for not meeting the social and economic needs of others (you already read that passage, right?). [Christians aren’t against social and economic justice, we just understand that God wants such needs met in a certain way (Philippians 2: 1-5; Acts 4: 32-37; 2 Corinthians 8: 13-15; Ephesians 4: 28; 1 Thessalonians 4: 11, 12; 2 Thessalonians 3: 6-13 – but that’s really not the focus of this article).]
Concerning the sheep and goats and right versus left and positions of honor, after Jesus rose from the dead, God exalted him to his right hand, the highest place (Philippians 2: 6-11; Ephesians 1: 18-23). James and John recognized the privilege of being at Jesus’ left or right as nearly equally honorable; but Jesus said that to receive such honor, one must be the servant of all, as he was (Mark 10: 35-45).
Finally, when God exalted Jesus to his own right hand, think about where God was in relation to Jesus – at his left hand. Now, let’s try to bring the points of this article home.
First, the sheep (the saved) are at Jesus’ right hand. Jesus and God are one (John 10: 30). So, Jesus and God are at Christians’ left hand. On the other side of them are the goats – those who’ll be punished. Jesus stands between us and punishment (1 Timothy 2: 5; Romans 8: 34, 27; Hebrews 7: 25; John 4: 24; 2 Corinthians 3: 17; John 10: 30). In fact, he’s already taken our punishment for us (1 Peter 2: 24; Romans 5: 6-11).
Second, God has a plan (one plan) by which men can come to him. It’s completely outlined in his word and is still relevant today as the only plan for our salvation. To benefit from Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, we have to follow God’s plan to its conclusion (Revelation 2: 10; Philippians 2: 12, 13; 3: 10-16; Romans 6: 3-5; Galatians 2: 20, 21; 1 Corinthians 15: 1, 2).