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Living With Our Fallibility

It has been a pesky problem from the very beginning. Adam, who walked with God in the cool of the garden, could not follow one simple proscription. Abraham, called by God to be the progenitor of a great nation, lied about Sarah being his wife to save his own hide. Moses, chosen from among all the people of the world to receive God’s law, could not follow simple instructions like hitting the rock once instead of twice. And let’s not forget about King David. In a single stroke, David managed to mangle four of the Ten Commandments.

Among the followers of Jesus there was Judas who betrayed him and Peter who denied him. In the early church we find Ananias and Sapphira trying to embezzle a little good will. Even Paul seems to have made a mistake when he refused to give young John Mark a second chance.

Moving forward in time we encounter the bloody Inquisition. We also can’t forget the Crusades, the effects of which we are still feeling today. During the Reformation we find the good ministers of Geneva burning Michael Servetus at the stake because of his views on the Trinity. In England, the faithful of the Lord were busy burning Anabaptists simply for being Anabaptists.

We could continue with Ted Haggard and numerous Catholic priests, but surely by now the point is made. Believing in God and the Bible does not guarantee moral or intellectual infallibility. Some of the greatest promoters of the faith have also been some of the most foolish.

I bring this up in an effort to encourage politicians and other public officials, especially those who wear their faith like a badge, to find the courage to admit when they make a mistake.

Remember the press conference in 2004 when a reporter asked President Bush to name his greatest error thus far as President? Mr. Bush stuttered and stammered, but could not name a single one. And even as recent as this past November, in an interview on the Fox Business Channel, President Bush still refused to admit having made any errors.

It’s almost as if making a mistake is viewed as some sort of disgrace. But the fact is, the only real disgrace comes when we fail to admit a mistake once the error becomes apparent.

This is what marks the difference between real believers and posturing wannabes. Real believers are intent on doing the right thing no matter what the cost. They are constantly evaluating the content of their thoughts and behaviors to make sure they are keeping every thing in line with what is right and true.

The posturing wannabes, on the other hand, are constantly avoiding any examination, inwardly or outwardly. The last thing they want to do is expose the inconsistencies which are common to all of us, but which they strive desperately to conceal.

So to candidates and public officials I say, it is not a sin to confess when you make a mistake. We already know it, so why hide it? Relax, no one expects you to be perfect. As political leaders what we expect from you is an earnest effort to be honest. If you make a mistake, own up to it. That’s what all the rest of us have to do.

All of us have the opportunity to be smarter tomorrow than we were today. Just ask Adam, and Moses and Peter.

James L. Evans is pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala.