When the DC Comics heroine Black Canary first arrived in the Superman TV series Smallville, she was working for the evil Lex Luthor, trying to take down a group of superheroes she was told were terrorists. She was ruthless and relentless in her pursuit of these men, wrongly believing them to be villains. Black Canary didn't believe anyone deserved to be terrorized and thought she was doing the right thing.
In some ways, Black Canary was doing the same thing as a group of Jews who plotted to kill the newly converted Saul of Tarsus in Acts chapter 9. We're told, "After a while some of the Jews plotted together to kill [Paul]. They were watching for him day and night at the city gate so they could murder him, but Saul was told about their plot" (Acts 9:23-24, NLT). Normally when I read these passages, I just shake my head and wonder how these people could be so evil. But the last time I read it, I was reminded of Jesus' promise in John 16:2: "The time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God" (NLT).
Sometimes, it is easy to demonize those who oppose us, believing they must be evil or stupid. But some of the worst atrocities in human history have been committed with good intentions. Thousands upon thousands of people have been killed by murderers who thought they were doing the right thing. The reputations of innocent people have been destroyed so that others wouldn't listen to and be influenced by their "evil" opinions.
But while I think it is important to understand people's "good" motivations for things that are wrong, it is more important to examine our own lives to make certain that we are not glossing over our own wrongs because our intentions or motivations are good. How often do we decide that a little lie is the "right thing to do" in a particular circumstance? How often do we trample on another person's rights because we believe they would misuse them? How often do we condone sinful behavior because we want to be nice or understanding?
Doing the wrong thing for a good reason is still doing the wrong thing. Let's not give ourselves a break for bad behavior just because we have "good" motives.