This past Saturday, two college basketball teams showed that they are most certainly going in different directions. West Virginia, who started the hoop season strongly with some big wins, has been fading—now even in danger of missing the big dance of March Madness. With a close 77-74 loss to #23 Louisville, the Mountaineers have lost 5 of their last 6 games, and are definitely going the wrong way at a critical time of year. By contrast, however, Michigan State had a huge win over Big Ten rival #3 Ohio State, for their 5th win in their last 6 games. The Spartans are definitely peaking at the best possible time of the year. Two teams. Two responses to the pressures of February. Two different directions.
In a way, these two divergent paths remind me of two Bible characters who were deeply involved in Christ’s passion events but who ended up taking two very different directions in their response to those events. Judas Iscariot, of course, betrayed Jesus to His enemies for the price of 30 pieces of silver. When the realization of his actions hit him, Matthew’s gospel record says he became “remorseful” (Matt. 27:3)—and went out and hanged himself (v.5). The key here is that the word remorseful is not the same thing as repentant. In repentance we go to God with our sins, wrongdoings, and shortcomings and seek His forgiveness. Judas does not appear to have done that, choosing rather to try to deal with his guilt by suicide.
Simon Peter also showed great grief and sadness in his failure. Luke’s account says that, following his three denials of Jesus, Peter went out and “wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62). But when confronted by Christ, Peter seems to have accepted his shortcomings and frailties and was restored by Christ (John 21) to a new level of spiritual service.
Two men. Two failures. Two very different responses.
In our seasons of failure, we can learn from these examples—and remember the words of John: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
When we sin, going to our loving and forgiving heavenly Father with our failures is always going in the right direction.
Bill Crowder, Sports Spectrum Chaplain