If we claim to be sharing in God's life while we go on living in darkness, our words and our lives are a lie. But if we live in the light, as he himself is in the light, then we share a common life, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:6-7 Revised English Bible)
Remember do-overs? Maybe you're getting closer to comb-overs, but think back to your childhood. Maybe you'll remember playing a game, messing up, and calling a do-over. The sun was in your eyes. Someone distracted you. I remember do-overs being especially important in the variation of baseball we played with a tennis ball on the street in front of my house; if a car came through during a play, someone could be counted on to call out, "Do-over!" Funny thing is that I never remember an argument. If someone called a do-over, there was no dispute. It was like what came before had never happened.
If you play golf, you call them mulligans. We get stricter about them the older we get ... right? Only one every nine holes in golf, if you play with me. Still, there's nothing to be compared to sculling a drive just short of the ladies' tee and having a mulligan to use. If you send that second drive, that do-over, straight and long down the fairway — well, that's pure grace. Doesn't matter that maybe your grandmother could have thrown your first drive farther than you hit it. Doesn't matter that you deserve to be hitting your second shot from there. Do-overs aren't about what you deserve; they're about second chances. As you walk down the fairway to your ball, it's as if that first clunked drive no longer exists.
Wouldn't it be nice to have do-overs in life? Don't you sometimes wish you had a mulligan for the harsh way you spoke to your wife, for the lie you told, for the place you went, for the sale you closed?
Joshua, my five-year-old, is learning all about that. The other day, after throwing a tantrum about something and being punished by losing some toys for a while, Josh was sulking around, looking sad. He looked at my wife, Laura, and put into words exactly what I've felt more often than I care to think about: "Sometimes I wish we could rewind parts of our lives."
I hear you, Josh. I can think of some bad decisions made, some cans of worms opened, and some apple carts upset. I wish I could rewind those times. Words that hang in the air between me and people I love that I'd give nearly anything to take back. Priorities set wrongly that I'd love to go back and rearrange. Self-centered attitudes that I'd broaden if I could have a do-over. Impulsive acts that I'd re-think if I had the chance. Where's the remote so I can hit that rewind button?
I'm with Josh. I want to rewind. I want a do-over. Have I used all my mulligans yet?
Even a five-year-old knows that some things done can't be un-done. Some genies can't be stuffed back into their bottles. Remember Pandora? CLosing the box meant nothing after all that evil had already escaped. Adam and Eve couldn't go back after their taste of fruit. Esau couldn't get back what he traded away "though he sought the blessing with tears."
Fact is that life doesn't come with a rewind button. You get no do-overs. An 18-year-old who kills his friend while driving drunk can't bring him back, no matter how much he'd like to. A husband who loses his wife's trust can't back up and erase the hurt look in her eyes. An alcoholic can't go back and change that first beer to a Coke. Oh, we probably all get many more chances than we deserve to put things right, but sometimes bad choices haunt us for a long, long time.
So God offers us something better — not a do-over, but a clean slate. To people who walk with him in the light, who don't try to preserve or deny their sins, God offers just exactly what we need: fellowship — both with him and with one another. Despite our failures and sins, he lets us share his life through Jesus. He lets us live and walk with him, just as if we deserve to, when we most certainly do not. While the best we can think to ask for is a chance to go back and do it over until we get it right, God gives us much more. His Son took care of getting it right. If we live honestly and submissively with him, Jesus' death cleanses us from our sins and keeps us right with God. What he asks is that we stay out of the shadows of deception and hypocrisy. That we refuse to hide any corner of our lives from the light of his critique. That we walk honestly and bravely in the light of his presence, letting him guide our steps and search our hearts.
That's why John warns us against the twin mistakes of living double lives on the one hand or pretending to be better than we are on the other. The common problem to both of those approaches to life is that they declare parts of us off-limits to the forgiveness and transformation that God offers through Jesus. On the one hand we reserve territory for our own control, perhaps even while declaring our obedience to God. On the other hand, we perhaps thank him for his forgiveness and grace in the past, but deny that we need it in the present. "Live in the light," says John. Live without pretense or hypocrisy, inviting God to examine you and change you, unafraid of his condemnation because of your confidence in his love.
Choose that life and you'll be clean. Oh, you won't be perfect — not yet, though you're on your way. You'll still make mistakes and even wish for do-overs sometimes. But in the end, you'll have something much more than the chance to go back and try again; you'll have the opportunity to walk confidently forward, trusting in God to shape you and mold you and tweak you until you're just exactly what he intended all along for you to be.
No rewind necessary.