Summary: We must take responsibility for our failure to obey the truth. Two personality factors that contribute to disobedience are self-indulgence and competitiveness. Final message in revival at Emmaus Baptist Church, Quinton, VA
I’ve lived in the Washington area long enough now that I know the lingo. I understand what you do when you get caught doing something you are not supposed to do. I’ve discovered that if you cannot get away with a “no comment” and you don’t have a lawyer to send people to, you stand up and you apologize, but in a way that is not an apology at all. When caught with your hands in the cookie jar, you look your accusers straight in the eye and proclaim, in as sincere a tone as possible, “Mistakes were made.”
Mistakes were made? Yes, but by whom? And were they just mistakes, or were they outright lies and crimes? Mistakes were made! Doesn’t that have the ring of truth about it, without actually admitting anything? Richard Nixon’s press secretary, after Watergate: “Mistakes were made.” Ronald Reagan, in a State of the Union address in 1987, speaking about his efforts in Iran, “mistakes were made.” Henry Kissinger, reminiscing about his terms in office, “It is quite possible that mistakes were made.” And just this past week, after revelations about a number of things, our present Attorney General told a news conference the same old refrain, “Mistakes were made.”
And let me be bipartisan. Seems to me I recall, after Bill and Monica did their thing, the President of the United States went on national television, bit his lip, and admitted, “Mistakes may have been made, but …:” You know the rest. It’s kind of like the prayer a deacon in my home church in Louisville used to pray – every time he was called on, he would say, “And Lord, forgive us of any sins we may have committed.” May have committed? I think it’s a sure bet that we did!
We have a hard time, don’t we, admitting that we are responsible for what we do? You don’t have to be a politician to live out this fantasy. I’ve had students say, when asked why they did not complete an assignment, “I didn’t have enough time.” I’m sorry, but when it comes to a major assignment, you make the time. Or how about, “I really intended to visit you in the hospital, but it just never did work out.” I am afraid I tried that one a time or two in my pastorate, and even though folks will say, “Oh, that’s all right.”, what they mean is, “I hear you saying that I am not important to you.” It’s tough for me – and maybe also for you – to stand up, admit I did something wrong, and take the consequences.
And so when Paul cries out to the Galatians, he is crying out to us too. “Who prevented you from obeying the truth?”. Who kept you from doing what you knew to be right? I’m afraid we already know the answer. Who made mistakes? I did. Who prevented me from obeying the truth? I did. Who knows what is right and true and noble, but continually turns to what is wrong and false and tawdry? I do. We do. Why? What is wrong with us, that even when we know the way of Christ, we turn down other paths? What is wrong with us, that even when we understand the will of God and know it is best for us, we follow cheap nowhere trails?
Let’s explore this issue, with Paul’s help:
First, Paul identifies an issue called self-indulgence, and positions that over against love. “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.” Self-indulgence – that’s one way to describe how I prevent myself from obeying the truth.
I have three grandchildren. Ages 6, 4, and five months. I love them dearly. When I get down in the dumps a little bit, all I have to do is look at the photos we have hanging all over the house – I don’t know what we’ll do if more grandchildren come – get a bigger house, I guess – more walls! I love them dearly, but I am not fooled. They are the most self-indulgent little creatures you can possibly imagine. Give them a few pieces of candy and then admonish them not to eat it now, it will spoil your supper, wait until you get home – and what happens? You turn your back and see nothing but chocolate smears and a guilty grin on young faces! Children see, children want, children take. That’s the nature of the beast. And while young Donovan, being only five months old, cannot understand about waiting and cannot yet handle a chocolate bar, I do see two chubby hands that grab on to anything that comes close and then pull whatever that is toward his toothless mouth! You haven’t experienced anything yet if you don’t know what it feels like for a baby to grab your glasses and try to suck the life out of them!