This story appears in FCA Magazine’s September/October 2017 issue. Subscribe today!
Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “Point the thumb, not the finger.” What does it mean? Where there is sin, broken fellowship, confusion, hard feelings or blame, it’s wise to first look at ourselves to “see if there is any wicked way in me” (Psalm 139:24, NJKV) that might have ignited or prolonged the problem.
We’re all continually learning this lesson, but about 20 years ago I learned it in a very real way. At the time, I was coaching a young man who was a walk-on, backup player. He wasn’t the biggest or the fastest, but nobody out-hustled him. I found small pockets of playing time for him every game, and he consistently contributed.
Late in the season, it was crunch-time. We were hosting a highly ranked team on national TV. The stakes were enormous, but before the game I shared with the position group that it would be business as usual; I went over who would be rotated into the game at some point. Specifically, I told this young man—in front of his teammates—that playing him would be a “no-brainer.”
As the fourth quarter began, we had a slight lead. I realized at that point that I hadn’t yet inserted him into the game. Normally, by this stage of a game, he had already been in. But because of the close score and “importance” of this game, I hesitated. I felt more secure keeping my starters in, even though all year long this young man had never let us down. We actually extended the lead in the final minutes, and I thought again about putting him in, but I had lost my mojo. Out of fear of losing the lead, I kept him on the bench.
When the game ended, I was really bothered that I hadn’t played him, but I still went over to hug him. After all, we won! But he was visibly hurt. He looked at me with tears and pain in his eyes and walked away.
The fire of authority burned within me in that moment. “How dare he treat his coach like that,” I said to myself (and almost to him). “The kid should know better. It’s a team game, and he should get his mind off himself and be happy he is even a part of this team.”
My index finger could not have been any longer.
Those thoughts stuck with me through the rest of the day, but then on Sunday morning my heart hurt. Looking back on the game, I couldn’t even see the victory anymore, only those tears in the young man’s eyes.
There’s nothing quite like a clean slate of forgiveness from Jesus.There was something greater than the team win here. My word. I had violated my word by breaking a promise. Even more importantly, I had violated God and His Word by not keeping my word.
In my pride, I rationalized it by telling myself I had earned the right to make those tough decisions, regardless of the specific people and their emotions. But the Holy Spirit challenged me, exposing that for the lie and the sin that it was.
What a Christian does at these points in his or her life is the game-changer.
First John 1:8 says, “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.”
I was claiming I had no sin. “I’m the coach, and what I say goes! We won the game! That young man is boo-hooing because he’s selfish!”
Index fingers easily spot splinters in others’ eyes, but miss the log in their own. Thumbs very seriously consider 1 John 1:9, which says, “But if we confess our sins to Him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”
The lesson of pointing the thumb before the index finger can be found throughout the Bible as well.
As faithful and devoted as Nehemiah and Daniel were in difficult circumstances caused by their forefathers’ sins, they pointed the thumb before the index finger. They confessed to God (and agreed with Him) that they too had sinned before Him. Our God is faithful and just and will forgive us when we confess to Him.
With forgiveness comes the expectation to repent. We turn away from the root of that sin.
Too many in our culture today are calling for grace to a person or people who refuse to agree with God that their ways are sinful and wicked before Him. There is no grace until confession. Then there is the outpouring of God’s free gift of grace, flowing from the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior.
I finally confessed to God my sin of breaking my promise regarding that young man, and then I confessed my sin to that young man. And I did it right in front of his teammates, the same place where I had first made the promise.
Today, that young man is a Christian coach making a big impact on his players. We have been friends ever since.
There’s nothing quite like a clean slate of forgiveness from Jesus.