One of my favorite movies from years ago is “Fiddler on the Roof,” a story about Tevye, the milkman, struggling to hang onto old traditions in the face of a changing world. In a memorable scene, a young rebel (who would eventually marry one of Tevye’s daughters) tries to convince the circle of traditional older men to take notice of what is happening in the world outside of their little village. The dialogue goes like this:
Man 1: Why should I care about what’s going on in the outside world? Let the outside world take care of itself.
Tevye: He’s right.
Young Rebel: Nonsense! You can’t close your eyes to what’s happening in the world!
Tevye: He’s right.
Man 2 (addressing Tevye): He’s right and he’s right? They can’t both be right.
Tevye: You know, you are also right!
In Jacob 7, Jacob concludes his portion of the narrative by relating an account of a man named Sherem who was going out of his way to undermine the faith of the people and contradict Jacob’s teachings about Christ. Here is a description of Sherem based on Jacob’s account:
- Speaks with confidence like he’s got it all figured out
- Knows how to reach people through flattery and well-chosen words
- May have some knowledge of the scriptures but rejects portions he disagrees with
- Uses all of the above to influence people to share his viewpoint
Perhaps you know someone like this. Most of us do. This is someone who is hard to argue with because he seems to have all the answers. The easy thing to do with someone like this is to acknowledge that his points are valid and his position has merit. But if his position is the exact opposite of yours, how can you do that? They can’t both be right!
Just because someone is a good debater doesn’t mean his position is correct. I took a debating class years ago, and one of the exercises was to take one side of an argument and effectively present that position and then switch sides and effectively argue the opposite position. Which side was actually right didn’t matter — you were learning how to make the side you represented sound right by effective use of words, examples, quotations, passion, etc.
When it comes to religion, opposing viewpoints can bring about sensitive situations. Since none of us is God — in theory, we are each receiving messages or direction from God and proceeding accordingly — how can we say that someone’s message from God is wrong? However, if I say I’ve received a message from God and you say you’ve received a message from God and the two messages are exactly opposite, there is only one explanation — one of us got it wrong. They can’t both be right.
In Jacob 7, Sherem demands a meeting with Jacob where he firmly asserts his position that there is no such thing as a Christ to come. He says that Jacob can’t prove it, so why should he or any logical person believe such a thing? Jacob could have said, “Maybe you’re right” or “Let’s just agree to disagree,” but these types of responses would have left the people confused.
Instead, Jacob called down the power of God, and Sherem fell to the earth and was incapacitated for several days, after which he admitted that he had been deceived by the devil, and then he died. This educated, polished, and confident man had to admit that he was wrong and Jacob was right. After all, they couldn’t both be right.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the father, but by me” (John 14:6). Jesus said He is the only way to God; others say He is not the only way. They can’t both be right.
So, although we should definitely not be disrespectful to people with different beliefs than ours, let’s be careful about compromising our beliefs to earn labels like “tolerant” and “politically correct.” We need to understand that by acknowledging that opposing beliefs could be correct, we’re also saying that our beliefs could be wrong.
Some would have you believe that everyone’s beliefs are right, even those that are opposite to each other — obviously, that position is the most false of all.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.