I remember Don Knight speaking words of wisdom to a group of men at church years ago. He encouraged us all to speak “those three little words” every woman desperately longs for a man to say. You’re probably thinking he was going to remind us the importance of saying, “I love you.” But according to Don, the three little words most important and most cherished by women are those spoken by the man who admits, “I was wrong!”
The popular movie, “Love Story” became famous for it’s punch line, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Even the actor who spoke the line looks back and says, “What rubbish!” Love means admitting you’re wrong and saying you’re sorry. It’s sometimes hard to say it because quite truthfully we want to be right. But as perfect as you might be, there will come a time when you will not be right and it will be best to swallow the pride and say “those three little words.”
But it’s not really enough, is it? We can’t just say “I was wrong. I’m sorry.” Something more is required. The purpose of admitting being wrong and sorry is to change our thinking and our behavior so we don’t find ourselves in that same situation again! The spiritual word for this is repentance, which means to turn away from wrong and change.
Some folk complained to Jesus about other “sinners.” Jesus’ response was that there aren’t some who are worse sinners than others and that “unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:3)
The truth is, we all fall short. (Romans 3:23) None of us hit the mark. Maybe some days, we aren’t even aiming at the right target. We aim too low in pursuing personal ambitions and filling our sense of self-worth. We aim to “keep busy” rather than to live with purpose. We set up goals that really won’t satisfy us at life’s end. Sometimes we don’t even set up any goals, but just coast through life as it happens to us. Our lives, while designed to be fruitful in spiritual ways, encouraging to others and honoring to God, sometimes may be barren of any good and lasting value.
A couple retired and sold their home. They purchased a boat and spent all their last days collecting sea shells. Piper asks, “How will they answer God when he calls them home and asks what they did with the life he gave them? “I collected sea shells?!” What a waste!”” (John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life)
Jesus tells the story of a man who had a fig tree that never bore fruit. Year after year it remained barren. He was going to have it cut down. But the man who took care of his vineyard pleaded with him, “Leave it alone for one more year and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not then cut it down.” (Luke 13:6-9)
It’s not enough to be sorry that our lives are so barren of God’s love, joy, and peace. It’s not enough to feel regret that we lack patience, kindness, or goodness. We can admit we have too little faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But it’s not enough. We can’t produce fruit by working harder or doing more good things. But while time still remains, today is the day to dig in and fertilize our lives with the nourishment of God’s truth. This is the day to soak up his promises and let them feed the very root of our lives. That’s when fruit will come, by changing our life so it stays connected to God, the very creator of life. And THAT is enough.