How To Make It Right When You Mess Up

Don't be in denial.

Acts 6:1-7 (ESV)

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.

And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

Don’t miss the significance of the “complaint.” The Hellenists (the believers who spoke Greek) had a serious beef; their widows were being neglected. The ministry was run by Hebrews and the complaint was against the Hebrews. In other words, the Hellenists felt discriminated against.

The Apostles’ reaction is a model of how to respond to criticism. They could have made excuses, but they didn’t. Instead, they summoned the full number of the disciples and worked out a complete solution.

They took this so seriously that they invented a new Christian office – Deacon. Even though it’s depicted as menial labor, they chose men of the highest stature for the work – seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom. It’s also noteworthy that all of these first deacons had Greek names. We aren’t told why, but there’s no way this was a coincidence. That had to be comforting to the Hellenists.

This kind of complete, humble, professional response to criticism is almost unheard of today. Politicians, businesses, and even churches are known for stonewalling and making excuses when called out for even the most minor mistake. No one ever seems to just say, “Oops,” and make amends.

But the apostles are aware that, despite their being filled with the Holy Spirit, they’re not perfect. The beauty of it all is that they’re comfortable with that and so don’t act neurotically when called out.

These guys really understand grace.

Mistakes are part of life; we all make them. By not treating their mistake as something unacceptable, the Apostles kept it from becoming a big deal. Their fix went on to become a signature ministry.

Are you holding back on admitting you’re wrong about something? Is there someone you need to mend fences with? Is there something you need to make right?

Ask the Lord for the courage and the clarity to move forward.

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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.