Where Will You Stand?

By DANNY MINTON

We all hate to make mistakes, especially if they affect those around us. It’s not only embarrassing but often opens us up to criticism. Most of our mistakes are seen by only us, but there are times when we would like to hide and dread what people will say. It’s bad enough to mess up, but much worse when others are watching. 

If you watch football, that’s the event you’d have seen in the recent Dallas-Tampa game. The Dallas kicker missed not only one but four extra-point tries. It was more embarrassing because it took place before 31.2 million people. It was painful to watch, not because of missing points, but knowing what the young man must have been going through in his mind. To those of us watching, it was just a game; to him, it was his job, something he expected of him that affected those around him. 

Then came the reactions from sportswriters, sportscasters, fans, comedians, and social media. Everywhere you turned, someone was making a joke about his misfortune. Others were demanding that Dallas fire him and get a new kicker. Not only was he dealing with his struggles, but he also had to face scores of people who were so disappointed in him that they didn’t stop to look at him as a person. That he was one of the best kickers for the entire season meant nothing, judged only on the failure to produce in one game.

It’s sad to see how we treat each other when they make mistakes. One wrong decision, one slip of the tongue, one moment of anger, or one mistake is often used to ridicule and, in some cases, ruin a person’s life. Do you want to know who felt the worst about what happened at the game? It wasn’t the fans, the coach, the owner, or the players; It was the kicker. How would we feel if we messed up before 31 million people and, most of all, failing our teammates?

John tells the story of a woman who committed adultery and was brought before Jesus by a crowd demanding his judgment for what she’d done. Jesus quietly reminded them that they all had faults but were quick to judge someone else for theirs. “If you are without sin in your life, you be the first to throw a stone.” This straightforward statement reminded them that no one is perfect. When they had all left, Jesus didn’t use her situation as a joke or put her up to public ridicule. He simply said, “Go and sin no more.” In other words, “Go and try and be better.”

Mistakes are things that happen that we didn’t plan to happen. They are not done on purpose, and as often and hard as we try, we can’t seem to correct them easily. Other times we make wrong decisions in life. We all do it, no exceptions! When we see someone “mess up,” we should be like Jesus and show compassion and encouragement. Making fun of someone at their lowest moment shows a lack of compassion. We should ask ourselves how we would feel if we were the person facing criticism.

Many years ago, the Spanish Duke of Osuna visited a convict galley in Barcelona harbor, intending to pardon those prisoners who might be deserving of clemency. Boarding the vessel, he had the prisoners mustered on the topside and asked each man what he had done to lose his liberty. One after another, the men began to blame others for their imprisonment. One insisted he had been framed; another swore he had been apprehended in place of the real culprit; another claimed that the witnesses at his trial had lied. Not one admitted he had done anything wrong except one man who frankly confessed, “My lord, I stole a purse. I got caught, tried, justly convicted, and here I am.”

Concealing his surprise, the duke listened to the other men’s alibis. When he was through, he turned to the man who had admitted his crime and, in words of biting irony, said, “Sir, you are far too wicked to remain in the company of these ‘innocent’ men. I cannot pardon them, for they have done no wrong. But you admit you have done wrong. You, I can pardon. Captain, release this man.”

To be Christlike is to stand with those who seek to do better. Jesus never mocked someone who admitted their faults and desired to change, even choosing as his close followers tax collectors, zealots, fishermen, sinful people, and anyone who wanted release from their past mistakes. Jesus will always stand beside us when we make a mistake. He will be there, encouraging and helping us when we keep trying to do better.

Watching after each miss was interesting; the game’s kicker was surrounded by his teammates, encouraging him. They didn’t laugh at him or make jokes; they only wanted to support their teammate through a rough time. So, here’s the question. Where will you be standing when those you love make a mistake?

Danny Minton is a former Elder and minister at Southern Hills Church of Christ

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