Rio Olympics came with some drama, when Ryan Lochte made a huge drunken mistake. One night in Rio, Lochte with some teammates drank too much, went to a gas station and decided to destroy it’s bathroom. When fleeing the scene, a guard came to them with a gun saying they could not leave until the damages were paid for. When they left, Lochte made up a story that he was “held up at gun point.” This situation has been a disaster that I am sure Lochte wishes he could take back. After piling up the mistakes and regret, he went to national television to say his apologies.
Truth is: we all make mistakes and we all have regrets. It probably doesn’t take too much thought processing to recall something that you wish you could take back: a lie you told that got found out, talking bad about a person unknowingly with them right behind you, trying to cheat on a test and getting caught and called out in front of the class. Regret is one of the worst feelings we experience, so how do we handle it?
The apostle John was one of the closest followers of Jesus and the author to 1 John in the New Testament. In the first chapter of his letter, in verses 5-7, we read of a contrast of light and dark. God is light - perfect, holy, and pure. The darkness is without the light, wicked, and evil. John says for those who consider themselves Christians, yet "walk in darkness" - they are liars. He’s not referring to people who occasionally make mistakes, because we all make mistakes and need forgiveness on a regular basis. But he says, “walk in darkness,” pointing to a lifestyle of not caring about God or having a relationship with Him, pursuing your own selfish-desires, and living in sin. Those who call themselves Christians, but consistently walk in the dark are liars.
But if we claim to be in the light and truly walk in the light, we’re given some amazing things. We have become family with other believers, we have a relationship with God, and the sacrifice of Jesus covers all our sins - past, present, and future. “All” is quite a powerful word for us to hold onto when struggling with regret…
Reading through to verse 10, we hear John and understand that Jesus’ sacrifice covers all sins and we can trust that He is faithful to forgive us. But what must we do to receive His forgiveness? Our answer is in 1 John 1:9:
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
When we make regrettable, sinful mistakes - we need to own up and apologize. God will forgive you of your mistakes if you own up and ask for it. Ryan Lochte made some terrible mistakes in Rio, but in the end, he did the right thing by owning up to his mistakes and apologizing. When we mess up and have regrets, it’s important to ask forgiveness to the person that we have wronged (if necessary), but also importantly ask God for disrespecting Him! Is asking forgiveness a consistent piece to your prayer life? If not, it probably should be. In our broken bodies in this broken world, unfortunately even Christians still struggle with sin - and because of that, repentance should be a regular part of our prayer life.
If your regret is a heavy one that you seem to be unable to shake it off, don’t get down on yourself too bad. Think of Peter, one of Jesus’ closest followers and massive contributor to the early church. He ended up denying he even knew Jesus right before Jesus was crucified. Think of Paul, the greatest evangelist of all time, even he struggled doing things he didn’t want to do and not doing things that he should’ve done. Or King David, one of the most godly warriors and kings for God, also a adulterer and murderer. Yet, all of these men, even with regret, had seriously repentant hearts and God restored relationships and used them in powerful ways. Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14 that he forgets what is behind and moves forward towards the will of Jesus.
Even if you have genuine regret for the wrongs you have done, that’s a good sign of salvation and the Holy Spirit in you. 2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret…” Look at your life: are you truly walking in the light or in the darkness? Do you experience regret when you do things that dishonors God? Unfortunately we all will continue to make mistakes here in this broken world in our broken bodies. But when we do, we must own up and apologize. And if you do that, God promises to forgive, He continues to love you, and will show you overwhelming and amazing grace.