After school, a teacher was looking out her classroom window while reflecting on her day when she saw a boy walking alone down the steps. Just as she was about to return to her work, he slipped and fell. Picking himself up, he looked around at the empty schoolyard and yelled, “Who pushed me?”
This is a little humorous coming from a kid, but sometimes when adults are in conflict or trials, they search for someone to blame. Many tend to focus on the attitudes and behavior of others to justify their own actions. When things go well, we enjoy taking the credit. But when unpleasant circumstances arise, the situation may quickly change. When credit turns to blame and when criticism replaces praise, the person responsible may vanish into thin air. Excuses replace candor and most will point fingers at others rather than accept responsibility for their own mistakes.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had just told his disciples to “judge not that ye be not judged”. He knew that most tend to excoriate others rather than examine their own shortcomings. He spoke of this in Matthew 7:3-5 saying:
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
Here Jesus suggests that we should get the plank out of our eye before we try to remove the speck from another’s. In other words, we shouldn’t be telling others how to live their lives until our own issues are resolved. True repentance is the first step toward accepting responsibility for our failures.
In James 4:7-10, we have what is known as the “Ten Commandments of Repentance”.
1. Submit to God 2. Resist the devil 3. Come near to God 4. Wash your hands
5. Purify your hearts 6. Be afflicted (grieve) 7. Mourn 8. Wail
9. Change your laughter 10. Humble yourselves
Our sin should cause us to grieve, mourn, and wail. Someone was once asked why people are not walking the aisles in many churches today. Their response was, “There are too many layers of unconfessed sin to crawl over.”
While in Moscow almost thirty years ago, I visited a small church service being held in a former nightclub. About halfway through the service, a lady stood up and began speaking in Russian. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she held her Bible close to her chest. The more she spoke, the more she wept. Afterwards, I asked our translator what she had said. He then told me that she was confessing her sins, one by one. Then she asked God and her church to forgive her. She was publicly accepting responsibility for the wrong she had done. In other words, she was repenting!
Many think David was called “a man after God’s own heart” because of his willingness to accept the responsibility for his mistakes. David was a man of genuine repentance because his sin grieved him. He wrote in Psalm 51:3,
For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
What about us? How different would our lives be if we immediately accepted the responsibility for our wrongdoing? Think of how dynamic our Christian walk would be if we were to go to those we have hurt and asked for their forgiveness. What if we decided just for once, to lay down our pride and seek after God unashamedly?
The young boy in our story could have gotten up, brushed himself off and said, “That sure was clumsy of me. I need to be more careful from now on.” The teacher’s perception of him would have been much different.
The next time you fall will you ask, “Who pushed me?” or will you accept that you are not yet perfect? Can we just dust ourselves off and try to do better next time? Apologies also have their place, but only if they are genuine. I have come to realize that many times, an I’m sorry is little more than a dirty, smelly, stale towel used repeatedly to clean up yet another mess made by one whose highest priority is himself.
Carl Bard once said, “Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” Making that brand new ending is in fact a brand new beginning.