All people do things in life they wish they hadn’t done. Certainly it is true that sometimes our regret for things we’ve done may have more to do with getting caught and suffering the consequences of our failure. The more one is in the spotlight the more their failures are played out before the world. The more the person has claimed faith in God and dedication to Him, the quicker people are to point at the hypocrisy of the person involved. Today in the news there were two items that illustrate the point. The newspaper and the television news both carried the story of Randy Travis being arrested as a drunk driver who was naked and threatened the police. Internet news and ESPN carried an interview with Bobby Patrino the former Arkansas football coach who was fired after being in a motorcycle accident with a young lady on the back with whom he was having an affair. Not only did the affair come out but it was revealed that he had recommended the young lady for a job in the athletic program without revealing their connection. He poured out his heart today about the regret he feels for being unfaithful to his wife and hurting his family. I suspect it won’t be many days before Randy Travis also will make a public statement of regret for his failings as well.
I’m sure the first question that arises in any such confession is whether or not it really is sincere or is it just trying to clear the deck again so that Patrino may be offered another coaching job and whether people will continue to purchase the CD’s of Randy Travis singing. Here is what I’m absolutely certain about. No matter what people think of either one of them or what they may or may not say, we don’t know their motivation. Paul made a powerful statement in I Corinthians 2 that should be held in view. “No one knows the mind of a person except the spirit of the person within him.” He goes ahead to declare that we can’t know the mind of God except as it is revealed in his word. The person who determines what they think God feels on a matter by how they feel is making a foolish mistake. As Solomon declared, “All the ways of a man are right in his own eyes.” He also said, “There is a way that seems right to a man and the end thereof is the way of death.” But Paul’s point is that it is exactly the same with a person. We only know what they are thinking when they tell us and even then our knowledge is limited to what they tell and that may or may not be the whole story.
How many times have you either said, thought or heard someone else say, “She said one thing but I know that she meant something entirely different.” “I know what you are thinking.” There are even people who make a living telling what people really mean based on their eye movement, the way they move their legs, hands or tilt their head. When I hear one of these folks analyzing the unsaid messages of a person, I can’t help but think, What if the person scratched because they had an itch or they blinked because of something in their eye or a flash of light. There is only one mind any of us can read effectively and that is our own and we are entirely capable of deceiving ourselves even about our own thoughts and motives.
What does all this mean? It means that when I listen to the tearful confession of a football coach or a country singer or just a regular guy that I work with, the best thing I can do is take it at face value. If we observe the golden rule given by Jesus of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us it becomes quite easy to determine how we will react to what anyone says. In Luke 17:3-5 Jesus made a powerful point that ought to be considered on this whole theme. He said, “if a man sins rebuke him. If he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day and turns again to say, “I repent” forgive him.” Think about this situation. Someone sins against you seven times in a single day. Each time they sin they turn back to us and say, “I repent.” Don’t you think that about the fifth time you would begin to think “If they really were repenting of the sin they wouldn’t keep doing it.” But Jesus said that wasn’t the right reaction. Since we can’t know the other person’s heart we have to accept their words and react by forgiving them. Now I can easily imagine what someone is saying at this point. “If we just accept their repentance and forgive them, won’t it result in people getting away with sin without really ever repenting? If judgment and punishment depended on us that would be a good conclusion. But God doesn’t need our help in punishing people for sin. A person may truly get away with things on this earth. But God does know the heart. He will repay. So we can be sure our sin will find us out.
I hope Patrino is fully penitent for his sins and that he will be a faithful husband to his wife from this day forward. I hope he is a great father to his children and that he might coach again effectively. I hope Randy Travis turns his life around and breaks away from the problems that are haunting him today. Only God knows what the future will hold.