¡°RIGHTING OUR OWN WRONGS¡± By Pastor YAU
Text: Luke 15:17-24 November 17, 2013.
1) Definition of wrong: According to the Webster dictionary, ¡°wrong¡± is defined as the following: To choose wrongly, make a wrong judgment, wrong attitude, presumption or action. It also includes faulty statement, inaccurate information, knowledge or innocent intention.¡± We all have different life experience, background and habits. There are faulty basis in our making judgments, comments or decisions. The most important element of ¡°wrong¡± is it must not be intentional. If it is intentional, then it is worse than wrong, it is vicious.
2) Commonality of wrong: As long as one is human, he will make mistakes or do wrong things. This has little or nothing to do with education, back-ground, social status, age, race or culture. No one in human history could claim he or she has never made a mistake or has done everything right. A well known and very experienced conference speaker made such an embarrassing mistake. At one of his sessions, a man and a woman came in late, looking for seats, the speaker signaled them to two empty seats on the front row: ¡°Sir, you and your Mom may sit here close to the front.¡± Although the woman looks older than the man, but they were a couple instead of a son and his mother. It doesn't matter how mature you are or how much life experience you may have, you will make mistakes or say wrong words.
HOW DO WE MAKE WRONG DECISIONS? A few examples.
1) Decision made in human instinct: ¡°Now there was a famine in the land and Abram to live there for a while.¡± (Genesis 12:10) If you read the rest of the chapter, you will see Abram schemed to lie and he almost lost his wife if it were not the interference of God's protection. Compare this to Isaac who faced a similar situation but didn't follow the crowd: ¡°Now there was a famine in the land, besides the earlier famine of Abraham's time, Isaac went to the king of the Philistines in Gerar. The Lord appeared to Isaac and said: Do not go down to Egypt, live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendents, I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore.¡± (Genesis 26:1-3) Instead of seeking guidance of God like Isaac, Abraham made his decision with human instinct and suffered from it.
2) Decision made on selfish purpose: ¡°Now Sarai, Abraham's wife, had borne him no children, but she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar. So she said to Abraham: The Lord has keep me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her. Abraham agreed to what Sarai said.¡± (Gen 16:1-2) But this wasn't in God's plan. In Gen 17:15-21 God told Abraham his descendant cannot come from Hagar, but from Sarai. Sarai did this for selfish purpose. She tried to build a family for her honor because in the culture at her time, it was a shame and a symbol of a curse of God to have no children. Her decision to do so brought war and conflicts to the people of Israel, descendant of Isaac, and the Arabs, the descendant of Ishmael. Any decision made of selfish purpose must be wrong.
3) Decisions made in raging anger: ¡°One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Glancing this way and that way and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.¡± (Exodus 2:11-12) I believe no one needs any further explanation to understand this: we shouldn't make any major decision when we are so angry. I believe we all have experience of making very dumb decision in anger and the pain of regret we keep for many years. Regardless of how right you think you are at the moment of anger, judgments or decisions we made in anger never serve any good purpose in the long run.
4) Decision made on blind spot: ¡°Some time later Paul said to Barnabas: Let's go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing. Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them but Paul did not think it wise to take him because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company.¡± (Acts 15:36-39)The blind spot Paul had that led him to split from Barnabas rooted from his prejudice of past failures of John Mark. This decision became a scar and regret in his heart. Years later, Paul realized that Mark was so faithful and important in his gospel ministry. He urged Timothy to bring Mark to see him in his final days of life, I guess, to reconcile with him. (2 Timothy 4:11)
LEARN FROM WORDS OF THE LORD: Luke 15:17-24
1) Time to realize our wrong: ¡°When he came to his senses.¡± (Luke 15:17) Most of the times we make wrong decisions, wrong judgment, say something wrong or make mistakes, we do that when we don't have our best senses in our mind and heart. But we can't keep living like nothing has happened when we do wrong. We need to examine our heart and mind to see if anything we do, say, any decision we made are wrong and we need to come to senses to change course, to feel bad, to do it over to correct it. Pushing aside, sweeping under the rug doesn't make things right in our life or relationship. King David asked God to help him see his heart, the inside, if there is anything offensive. (Psalm 139:23-24) We need to come to our senses to admit we are wrong.
2) We wrong both God and man: ¡°I will rise and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.¡± (15:18) When we do wrong against someone, we have committed sin against God because we violate the word of God. Too often, we take wronging other as little or nothing and we never feel it is serious. Even though doing wrong is part of the low nature of human, we still need to confess to God and to man and to ask their forgiveness in repentance. Repentance is the only way to earn forgiveness of sin. (1 John 1:9-10)
3) Then take action to do right: ¡°So he got up and went to his father. Then he said to him: I have sinned against heaven and you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.¡± (15:20-21) Don't just feel bad for your wrongs, do some-thing to make it right, to correct the wrong, to admit, confess and be reconciled with God and man. Jesus told us even when we are giving offerings at the altar, we need to reconcile with a brother whom we have wronged before we make any sacrifice to God. Feeling regretful isn't good enough. Taking action to make it up will erase the lingering evil from our heart and mind.
4) Be generous to forgive: ¡°But the father said to his servants: Quick! Bring the best rope and put it on him. Put a ring on his fingers and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.¡± (15:22-24) This is about the glorious result when we are sincere to correct our wrongs. This is mainly for the offended: we need to be generous to forgive if a brother asks from us. Jesus taught us to forgive those who have offended us to seventy times seven. He also warned us the consequence of unforgiving.
STEPS TO CURB DOING WRONG:
1) Willing to obey God's leading: ¡°The Lord appeared and said to Isaac: Do not go down to Egypt, live in the land I tell you to live...So Isaac stayed in Gerar.¡± (Genesis 26:2, 6) Even Isaac faced a similar hash environment, he did not go down to Egypt as did his father. He obeyed God and stay in the land God wanted him to stay. Then in 26:12: ¡°Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him.¡± No one who is willing to obey God's leading hand will suffer any loss but will be blessed by the Lord beyond our wildest imagination.
2) Seek God's wisdom first: ¡°If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.¡± (James 1:5) We all agree, if we are humble enough, to admit that often times, we don't have the wisdom to make the best decision, to say the right words or to take the best action in life situation. At that moment, we can and need to come to God in humility, seeking God's wisdom from his word, the Bible, in prayers, or in consultation with spiritually mature Christians so we can do things right.
3) Spend time to know all facts: ¡°Dear brother, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.¡± (James 1:19) Many of the wrongs, particularly our wrong words, wrong statements or judgment, comments, come as results of our hasty response or reaction before we know all the facts. ¡°Quick¡± here also means ¡°more.¡± If we can be patient to listen more, know more, understand better, we may be less incline to make wrong decisions and have less stress that comes with it. Look again at the assumption the conference speaker made on that couple and you can see the importance of knowing all facts before you make any statement.
4) Be positive about others: ¡°Who are you to judge someone else' servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.¡± (Rom. 14:4) This is about our wrong in making judgments against a brother or a sister in the Lord. We are not qualified to judge anyone because we are as weak and helpless in making mistakes and do wrongs. We are to be positive when we think, look, feel or say anything about them. God did not give us the right to judge his servants. If we need to say something, we need to say positive words, words of understanding, encouragement and full of love and hope in them. God can and will bring them up again as he did in Peter, Paul, Mark and many others. The world is full of vicious people who can only make vicious comments against others. We are God's children, we need to be different from the world.
APPLICATION OF TRUTH:
1) Never too late to do right: The keynote speaker at the 1996 graduation of Harvard University was Tom Brokaw, NBC Nightly News anchor from 1982-2004. He's one of the few outstanding anchors of TV news at that time. In his speech, he mentioned a little history between him and the university. 30 years ago, Brokaw applied for admission to the school of journalism at Harvard but was turned down. The dean of the school at that time believed Brokaw didn't have much hope to succeed in journalism. Brokaw stressed a positive note like this: You can still succeed even if someone doesn't believe in you if you are determined to work hard to make it. I applause the courage of the university for taking steps to correct their wrong decision made 30 years ago. If you have done wrong, it is never too late to do something to make it right.
2) Righting our own wrongs: I chose this topic to set the goal and limit of my focus of this message: righting our own wrongs, not the wrongs of others. The Lord Jesus refused to be the judge of some family feud. (Luke 12:13-14) He also discouraged us to become judgmental on the wrongs of others. (Matthew 7:1) We need to restrain from pointing fingers on the wrongs of others because this doesn't do us any good. We need to look on our inside to see if there is any offense we need to take care of, particularly offense against God. Galatians 6:7 says: ¡°Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.¡± So, try to do something right to get your relationship with God. Start to do things right in His eyes today.