As many of you already know, after serving my stint in the military, I spent a career in the field of law enforcement. I served as a police officer for the City of San Bernardino, California for a period of twenty-five years, working in various assignments. I say this in order to tell you that this career of mine provided me with an ample supply of editorial fodder that should be sufficient for whatever editorial writing time I have left. I'm going to draw on something from my past vocation as a lead-in to our thoughts under consideration today.
Are you familiar with the phrase "compounding the crime?" In legalese it simply means that a person has increased the original crime into one or more additional crimes. It's just like when we have one problem arise and instead of fixing it, we do something that makes it even worse. We call that "compounding the problem," don't we? I do this almost every time I try to fix something around the house or on one of my vehicles. That's why I learned a long time ago just to pay an expert to fix whatever needs fixing.
In the area of human behavior we can also make matters worse by "compounding" them. As an example, when training new officers, one of my standard pieces of advice was that "when" (not "if") they made a mistake to just own up to it. That if they tried to lie about it or lay the blame off on someone else, they were "compounding their mistake" which would result in a "compounded punishment." (My kids got the same advice) And, it's in this area of human behavior that our lesson is going to center.
Using my new officers as an example, what we're actually seeing in my advice to them is the next step to be taken after the mistake. It's usually seen or heard in the form of "What next." You see, that's the important thing to remember about my little bit of advice. Once something has been done, once the mistake's been made, what do we do next? And that's the thought we can use to carry us into the spiritual aspect of this lesson.
We will make mistakes. We will sin. So when we do, what do we do next? Let me provide you with a good Biblical example of what I'm talking about. If you recall, on the night before Christ was crucified, two of his closest disciples made major mistakes. They both turned against him. Judas betrayed Him and Peter denied Him. What they "did next" is what differentiates between what happened to them later and what qualifies them to be examples for us here.
We're told that Peter "wept bitterly" and "repented" of what he had done. We're also told that Christ forgave and restored Him to His fold (Jn. 21:15-17). Judas tried to undo what he had done, but did not "repent" and what he did next was to go out and hang himself. Can you spot the difference between the two?
So, in bringing the lesson home to us, we have to consider the same question when we commit a sin, don't we? When we sometimes say things that would have been better off not being said? We even have an old phrase that fits that situation. We call it "going off half-cocked."
Maybe our "half-cocked" words are because we lose our temper and say something cruel or hurtful towards our family or friends. Or maybe, in some form or fashion, we mistreat someone. You know, the Bible also tells us that we don't have to actually commit the sin to be guilty of it, so maybe we harbor some evil thoughts in our minds. Whatever the situation is, the most important thing is, "what do we do next?"
With human nature/behavior being what it is, a lot of people usually try and do one of several things "next." They'll try and make some excuse for it, or they'll attempt in some way to justify their actions. The third thing a lot of society does is to use the old "tried and true" solution - blame someone else. This might work at times in man's world, but don't ever entertain the idea that it will work with God.
The last thing that I think a lot of people do "next" is to simply ignore it. Like, if I ignore it long enough, I'll forget about it and it won't bother me. Sadly, given the remembering ability of a lot of us, this can work BUT, it's not the right solution for our problem. Just because it moves from the front of our memory bank to somewhere in the catacombs, doesn't mean it was "handled."
Think of it this way - to ignore a sin or offense to God long enough that we forget about it is only "compounding" the sin. Why do I say that? Because we'll just go on committing sin and thus pile them up on top of each other. That's what "compounding" means. Not only do we have the first one to answer for, we've got all the others that we've added on.
The answer to "What next?" is to take the road that Peter took. Recognize what we've done and not make any excuses for it or try in some way to justify it. Especially don't try and put the blame on someone else like good old Adam with his reply to God (paraphrasing) "She made me do it." (Gen. 3:12) Rather, stand up like a man, confess your error and pray for forgiveness. The sooner the better.
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