Copyright © July 1, 2017 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.
All Scripture Verses are from the New International Version of the Holy Bible.
As we gradually age we sometimes look back on our lives and we may remember three different types of events from our past:
1. Happy times that we truly enjoyed.
2. Tragedies that we lived through.
3. Things that we regret doing.
The purpose of this article is to look more closely at the things that we regret doing when we were younger.
The topic of regret can include a multitude of different things, such as something we purchased that we wish we hadn't, or someplace we went and we wish we hadn't, or something we said or did and we wish we hadn't.
I would like to briefly discuss the topic of things that we said or things that we did that hurt another person in some way.
A normal person who has not gradually turned off their own conscience, and who still understands the moral concept of right and wrong, and who can still feel remorse and sorrow for their past actions will usually not be able to forgive himself or herself for things that he or she did that hurt another person even though they may be a Christian and they know that God has already forgiven them through their faith in Jesus Christ. A person with a conscience carries the weight of their previous misdeeds in their heart for their entire life.
When we first realize that we have hurt another person, either intentionally or accidentally, it is not uncommon for us to shed tears because we are aware of the pain we have caused and we wish we had never done what we did. In the future each time we think about the event the tears will usually start flowing again because we sincerely regret the pain that we caused the other person.
Psalms 25:7 - Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O LORD.
As we grow in the Christian faith we eventually realize that we didn't just hurt another person -- we hurt a child of the living God. This is the second stage of regret and it begins when we realize we hurt one of God's precious children. And the age of the other person doesn't matter -- the person could be a child, a teenager, a young adult, an older adult, or a senior adult in his or her last years of life. The person is still a child of God and he or she is still dearly beloved of God. When this realization first dawns on us then the tears begin to flow again because we have a deeper understanding of what we have done and our sorrow increases because we realize we have injured one of God's precious children.
John 1:12-13 - Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God -- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.
As we continue to mature in the Christian faith then we eventually realize that we didn't just hurt a child of God -- we hurt Jesus Christ himself. Jesus told us the following:
1 John 3:1-3 - How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.
1 John 5:19 - We know that we are children of God,
Romans 8:14-19 - because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs -- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.
Matthew 25:34-46 - "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
When the implications of the above scriptures penetrate into our hearts then the tears start flowing like they have never flowed before. And our sorrow reaches a new level of intensity and we collapse under the weight of what we have done to our precious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But this is a good thing because when we reach this third level of regret then most of us decide that we are going to be as careful and considerate and thoughtful as we can for the rest of our lives so that we do not hurt Jesus again. Each one of us will still occasional fail but those failures should be trivial and few and far between.
"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
The reason I wrote this article is to encourage you if you have reached the third stage of regret where you realize that when you hurt one of God's children then you are hurting Jesus Christ himself. Although none of us can undo the things we have done in the past, each one of us can strive to behave more like Jesus in the future and we can have true heartfelt compassion for other people, regardless of who they are or what they have done to us. Please remember what Jesus said as He died on the cross:
Luke 23:32-34 - Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals -- one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
When we reach the third stage of regret then we can begin to forgive completely, totally, and with genuine compassion. This is the hidden benefit of the third state of regret.
. . .
Luke 23:40-43 - But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."
Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
After writing the above article I realized I needed to briefly mention what forgiveness does include and what forgiveness does not include. This is the most difficult part of this article for me to write because I do not wish reduce the importance of forgiveness and at the same time I do not wish to over emphasize forgiveness above other Christian virtues.
Matthew 18:21-22 - Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"
Let's briefly consider the following three hypothetical scenarios:
Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."
Matthew 6:15 - But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
In all three of the above situations forgiveness is not optional. However, as Christians we need to understand that there is a difference between forgiveness and discipline. Forgiveness is not optional but discipline may sometimes be optional. If discipline is appropriate then it should be tempered based on the specific circumstances.
- Someone accidentally and unintentionally does something that hurts someone else.
- Someone acts in a careless and thoughtless manner and someone else is hurt.
- Someone deliberately and intentionally does something that hurts someone else.
As parents, or as grandparents, we need to teach our children and our grandchildren the difference between right and wrong. And that may occasionally require that we discipline the ones we love. But we also need to forgive them for whatever they have done.
Forgiveness does not replace discipline. If discipline is appropriate then the type and amount of discipline requires good judgment.
Discipline does not replace forgiveness. The two need to exist together. But discipline should be carefully administered because the purpose of discipline should be to benefit the individual being disciplined so that the individual can learn that offensive behavior is not acceptable.
Proverbs 3:11-12 - My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.
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