Doing right is required every time (with permission from my favourite sportswriter)…

By Terry Pluto
It's not hard to make the right decision.

It's hard to keep making the right decisions.

I wish I had thought of this, but I'm stealing this thought from a sermon given by a pastor named Gene Appel at Willow Creek Community Church in a suburb of Chicago on Wednesday night.

I was in Chicago covering the Tribe/White Sox games, which gave me a chance to attend a service at Willow Creek — one of America's famed megachurches.

The senior pastor is a brilliant speaker named Bill Hybels. I've listened to him for years via sermon tapes. Some of his books and sermons were critical to developing my faith when I was spiritually searching. I strongly recommend some of his books, such as Too Busy Not to Pray and Making Life Work.

His church is like an arena: 7,000 theater seats in a three-quarters circle surrounding a stage.

About 4,000 people were there Wednesday to sing and pray for the first 40 minutes, then hear a 45-minute sermon by Appel on the moral choices Pontius Pilate faced as he had to rule on what was to be done with Jesus of Nazareth.

I've heard seemingly countless sermons on this event, in which Pilate knows he's sending an innocent man to death — and in the end, he actually washes his hands of Jesus' fate.

There is a famous line where Pilate scoffs: “What is truth?''

He says it as if there is no real truth; everything is open to interpretation and negotiation. That is a common sermon topic: Is there such a thing as absolute truth?

But Appel went in a different direction with his discussion. He mentioned how Pilate wanted to do the right thing, and actually made some attempts to free Jesus.

He did make some good decisions.

He just didn't make enough of them.

That's usually a problem for most of us. We know what we should do. We begin to do it. Then the pressure rises, the heat is turned up. It seems the more good things we do, the more resistance we endure.

I've worked with addicts in jail ministry. I know that we can be like Pilate. We know what we should do. We start to do it. We discover it's more demanding than we realized. We may know to stop spending, and even cut up our credit cards. For a month, we stay away from the plastic. Then comes an offer in the mail; soon we have three more cards, and the debts keep rising.

It's not about staying clean for one day, one week, one month.

It's about doing it every day for the rest of our lives, and some days are just so long, so demanding.

Then we begin to doubt ourselves.

Is it really right? Do we really have to do it? Most people aren't behaving this way; a lot of them are much worse than I am.

Doing the right thing isn't hard.

Doing it every day can be excruciating.

It's like being a parent. It's not that hard to make your kids go to bed on time once or twice. But how about every night? How about when you're exhausted, and you want to go to bed? And you just don't feel like fighting with them anymore?

In business, it's pretty easy to be honest on one expense report or one sales pitch. But how about every report? Every deal? Every time when the boss is demanding more production? Or every time it seems we don't have enough money to make it through the bills for the month?

Especially when we know some others are cutting corners, shading the truth and cashing bigger paychecks because of it.

It's really not fair.

That's when it's so tempting to pass on doing what we know is right, to pull a Pilate and say, “Hey, there really is no truth in this world, anyway.''

But in some situations, we know truth, and we know what we should do. And we have to keep telling ourselves and praying for the power to do it not one time, but every time.

Because just doing it occasionally is not enough, as most of us know when we look back at the mistakes we made.

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Messages for Terry Pluto can be left at terrypluto2003@yahoo.com. Sign up for Terry's free, weekly e-mail newsletter “Direct from Pluto'' at http://www.ohio.com

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