This is a snippet of an interview I recently read on Tim Challies’ blog. Philip Jenson is an Australian cleric of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney and he is PJ in the interview. I have bolded the section about which I want to comment.
TP: You’ve often said that you learn from your mistakes in life, and in ministry.
PJ: Which is why I know so much. I’ve made so many.
TP: Well that should make for a decent length interview, because I’m going to ask you about your mistakes. I want you to look back and think about your blunders. Let’s start, Frank Sinatra style, with regrets (“I’ve had a few, but then again too few to mention”). Looking back on your ministry, do you have any major regrets?
PJ: No, none. I don’t think regret is really a Christian characteristic; it’s an atheistic characteristic; it’s a Sinatra characteristic, because he lived for himself. But if you live for God, and God is the sovereign God who cares for us, loves us, forgives us, pardons us, then we move on, forgetting what is in the past. I press on to the goal of the future, so I don’t live in regret, and I don’t think we should.
TP: Perhaps it’s going to be a short interview after all…
PJ: Ah, no, because you started out talking about mistakes, and that will make a very substantial interview, because I’ve made lots of mistakes. But I don’t regret mistakes. I say sorry, I ask for forgiveness, I fix what can be fixed, and I move on. I try to learn from mistakes, but I don’t live in regret about them.
I really like what PJ writes about regret. Living as a Christian in this world elevates us in our ability to press forward and move on. Please understand that I don’t use the word “elevate” to mean “makes us superior to others.” but as Christians, we are “a new creation – the old has passed away, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5.17) and our relationship with Christ empowers us to forgive, do what you can “so far as it depends on you,” (Romans 12.18) release and be free. We must refuse to allow the painful reality of our sin to get the upper hand by casting a dark shadow over the grace and forgiveness of God. There are consequences to our wrong decisions and some consequences remain until the end of time but Satan would love for us to become so obsessed by regret that we no longer stand in awe of a God who delights in restoring hopelessly flawed sinners.
As I write this blog, God has brought something to mind. I made a pivotal decision after my second year of university. It wasn’t a foolish choice, rather a misunderstood choice. My actions hurt a friend and ruined a relationship. I think about it now and then and it continues to bother me. I don’t want to live with regret.
I’m going to make a phone call this week.
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Philippians 3.13-15 ESV