According to Webster, a mistake is thinking wrongly of someone or something, an instance of incorrectness, wrong judgment, or opinion. Society is rapidly accepting the idea that a mistake is a repeated, willful act that someone admits to once they are caught. Take, for instance, Olympic winner Michael Phelps, who admits to willfully attending a Frat party and smoking pot or being ticketed for drunk driving. He has attributed these incidents with mistakes. However, compared to the above definition of a mistake, we must conclude that Mr. Phelps did not have an instance of wrong judgment but instead willfully and with intent involved himself in sinful behavior.
Unfortunately, young people no longer have true role models to look up to. Men and women in leadership positions have the opportunity to nurture the minds of the young who will one day take their place in society. Yet, Congressmen, Senators, Presidents, CEOs, and celebrities no longer accept responsibility for poor behavior, merely chalking it up to a mistake. Once multitudes begin getting away with sinful behavior by flippantly declaring they made a mistake, society will slip into the abyss of chaos.
Our new government of change and hope has found potential leaders who again made a mistake after years and years of not paying their taxes. Ironically, Paul spoke of this mindset when addressing the Corinthians. “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (2 Cor. 7:10). This is what we find coming from the mouths of politicians, celebrities, etc. who acknowledge mistakes after the fact. Only when they are caught in the act, do they suddenly get teary-eyed and condemn their actions. If we are to believe that they are truly repentant of their sin, then I ask, where is the restitution? True repentance requires restitution as a fruit of repentance, yet our leaders only pay the amount they owe, not the penalties and interest expected of the average citizen.
King Saul proudly told Samuel that he had performed all the commandments of the Lord, yet one simple question by Samuel exposed the lie (1 Sam. 15:13-14). Immediately, Saul ducked responsibility, blaming the people (15:15-21). Only after hearing that God rejected him from being king did Saul admit he had made a mistake (15:24-25).Over and over, we find examples in the Scriptures of men and women who consciously and willfully sinned. Sins that could not be considered a mistake.
Mistakes are temporary lapses in judgment when it comes to doing something. They are an instance in which we may consider doing something or even begin to take part in it, but after thinking about it and deciding such would not be right, we back away from that action. Let us say Mr. Phelps attended the Frat party and got caught up in the moment, but as he was putting the bong to his mouth, he decided it was wrong, took it away, and left the party—that would be a mistake. However, actively participating and staying at the party is not a mistake. No more than not paying your taxes for several years until the time that you are being considered for an important government job. It is possible to make mistakes in life. We all do and will continue to do so as we learn things the hard way. But not everything is a mistake. Adam and Eve did not make a mistake in eating the fruit of the tree. They made a conscious choice because lust got the better of them. David, too, allowed lust to conspire within him so he could have Bathsheba.
As Christians, we must remember that God has given us the power of free choice. It is a tremendous responsibility that has captured men’s and women’s souls since the beginning. God has given us all, His Word that pertains to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3), as well as helping us doctrinally, righteously, and correctionally (2 Tim. 3:16-17). As the adage goes, “to err is human,” however, there is a big difference between making a temporary error (mistake) and willfully taking part in a sinful activity with no intention of stopping unless caught. Jesus said that we are only to forgive those who repent—truly repent (Luke 17:3). If Mr. Phelps and others are sincere about the mistake they made, then their repentance must move them to stop the sin they have been involved in; to speak out about the damage it does to society is true repentance. A mistake? Most certainly, what we have seen in recent weeks is not a mistake! May we all be responsible citizens and admit our sins before we are caught.