I have been preparing for Sunday evening and looking at Acts chapter 23. This is what happened previously, as described in Acts chapter 22:
Paul had been attacked by a mob in Jerusalem and rescued in the nick of time by some Roman soldiers, who had to carry him into the barracks because of the hostile crowd trying to kill him. In their sensitive and proportionate way the Romans decided to find out what had happened by placing him in chains and stretching Paul out to flog him and interrogate him. At this point Paul gently dropped into the conversation that he was a Roman citizen…
[Bear in mind that it was illegal for a Roman citizen to be placed in chains and tortured. Indeed it was so serious an offence that the commander may have feared he would suffer what he was about to subject Paul to.]
Suddenly the mood changed, Paul was released from chains and they decided not to flog him after all. He was brought in front of the commander and treated much more humanely. Later a plot was discovered to assassinate Paul so for his protection the commander had him escorted out of the city by about 470 soldiers and taken to the Regional Governor. The commander also sent a letter of explanation. This is what it said:
To His Excellency, Governor Felix
This man was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, but I came with my troops and rescued him, for I had learned that he is a Roman citizen…
Some serious first-century spin-doctoring had taken place. The order of events was changed, no mention was made of chains, floggings or interrogation. The commander was covering his back and making himself into a hero for protecting a Roman citizen. His story had a rather big hole in it: he did not say how, in the midst of a howling lynch-mob, he had ascertained that Paul was a Roman citizen prior to intervening!
When we have made a mistake we can be tempted to try to cover it up, to spin what happened, to try to present things in a more positive light. We can blame someone else. We can tell half-truths. We can try to save our own skin or our reputation. We can try to make ourselves look good.
But in my experience it is better to admit when we have made a mistake, to apologise, to ask for grace and forgiveness and to make a fresh start. That’s worth doing when it comes to other people. It is the way of Christ-like humility. And of course, since he already knows the truth and there’s no point in trying to fool him, it’s the right approach to God too.
If we find ourselves in the position of the one who has been wronged, we also need to follow the way of Christ-like humility: the way of grace, forgiveness and reconciliation. When we do we often find release and joy. In the Lord’s prayer we pray for God’s forgiveness as we forgive others. It’s difficult to ask for forgiveness when we have not forgiven. But it is also a joy to be forgiven and to forgive.
Be blessed, be a blessing.