A Wise old country preacher was holding a revival years ago. He was staying with the primary leader of that country church. All during the week the brother would begin with the saying, “I’ve been in the harness here for 40 years”, and then he would shower his complaint about what was happening.
The last night of the meeting the old brother stood and began his remarks by saying, “Brethren, I’ve been in the harness here for 40 years . . .” and the visiting evangelist interrupted him by saying, “Yes, brother, and I have examined that harness and there ain’t nothing worn on it but the backing up strap!”
There is no question but that we need men and women of leadership. It may be significant that most cars have three forward gears and only one that backs up. Our brother James has some simple instructions along this line. “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath . . . Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for the other that you may be healed” (James 1:19; 5:16). That may be the reason we have two eyes and two ears but only one mouth. James continues “Look also at ships: Although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned about by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a fire a little fire kindles” (James3:4-5).
Thirty years ago I heard the late Marshall Keeble speak on the subject of marital happiness. He lamented the divorce rate which was alarming even then. He said “The trouble with married folks is they don’t know how to back up. They have a fuss and nobody is willing to say, ‘I was wrong!’” As he reflected on the foolishness of that practice, he went on to remark, “I’d just as soon have a car that wouldn’t go forward as one that wouldn’t “back up.”
Many human relations problems could be settled if people could find the “reverse” position in the “gearbox” of their mind. I wonder how many church splits could have been avoided had contentious brethren been willing to just ‘back up’. Families who fight over the inheritance of property could save themselves from agony if they would just learn to “back up.” Parents and children could alleviate some of the difficulty encountered in the generation bouts simply by learning to “back up”. It is not a mark of wisdom and maturity to stand like a stone wall when you are wrong. The mature person admits to his own mistakes. They are not mistakes when you learn by them.
Why is it so difficult to back up? What causes a person to insist on saving face no matter what? The answer to both questions is human pride and selfishness. Satan effectively uses these tools to deceive us. The man who won’t back up is deluded. He thinks that he’s always right. He can give a hundred arguments in defense of his position. Solomon writes, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 12:15). The way out of human conflict is so simple — so easy to see in the lives of others; so hard to practice on a personal level. We just need to learn how to back up.
My telephone rang well past midnight on Monday morning. One of the members was upset with another. She said, “He has committed a mighty, mighty, mighty, mighty, mighty, mighty, mighty sin”. I was alarmed and yet quickly recovered by saying, “Sister, do you know that is a seven ‘mighty’ sin!” I had never heard of one before, but this sounded extremely serious. It could not wait until morning. So we arranged for her to meet the offender around 1:30 a.m. The whole family was in their night clothes when we knocked at the door. We sat in a circle and just looked at each other.
The “seven mighty sin” involved the head of the household. It seems that one of her teen-age children had been invited for lunch on the day before and sitting about the table the brother had casually commented that the woman’s husband would do better to speak louder when he led in prayer at church services. He did have a mild speech impediment. No harm was intended by the observation and at the time no hurt was felt. This was the “Seven Mighty Sin” and the man personally involved wasn’t even present. God help us!
Apologies were offered but not accepted. She wanted more, perhaps a public humiliation and confession. It was totally absurd – unreasonable – laughable. Nothing was really settled that night and as we left the house. In the front yard I confronted the sister. To make charges that were unrevealed – get families out of bed in the middle of the night – involve me in such a venture – and make charges that were childish and down right dumb and to walk away with a heavy heart is the real “SEVEN MIGHTY SIN.”
I was the new preacher in town but quickly learned that the “seven mighty sin” had been brewing for years. Bad blood between brethren is just the opposite of why Jesus shed his blood on the cross of Calvary. “Backing up time” had been lost in hatred and hostility. John writes, “He that says he is in the light and hates his brother is in darkness even until now. He that loves his brother abides in the light and there is no occasion of stumbling in him” (I John 2:9-10).