The “Undo” Command May 11 2018

(Part of BCF’S blog series: “Society, Selflessness, and the Scriptures")

My favorite command on the computer is “Undo.” Most commercial software has this function, and it is a quick way to cancel out mistakes in writing, numerical formulas, graphics, or any number of other programs. It started as a “Control-Z” command in the early days of the personal computer, but soon earned its own icon in the menus of most programs.

“Undo” even has its own Wikipedia entry, and it has spawned an entire vocabulary of “un” words in music, advertising, and social media, such as:

  • "Un-break My Heart” (a 1990s rhythm & blues song by Toni Braxton)
  • “Un-like” (remove a previous “like” designation now common in social media)
  • “Un-friend” (a Facebook term for taking someone off a “friends” list)

Most of us have times when we would like to have had an “undo” command for life. It would have been convenient to just hit “undo” to take back words we wish we had never spoken or actions we wish we had never taken. But there is no way to “un-say” words. There is no way to “un-slam” a door. There is no way to “un-yell” insults. There is no way to “un-lie” after you have told a falsehood. There is no way to “un-cheat” once you have broken the rules. In other words, there is no way for you to “un-sin.” This is the difference between the “undo” command and real life. And even if no earthly person saw or heard it, God did.

David experienced this in his sin with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. Initially, David seemed to not be so concerned about his sin as much as he was concerned about getting caught. He tried to cover it up, and one thing led to another until he murdered Uriah by sending him to the front lines of battle, ordering that the other soldiers withdraw, leaving Uriah completely exposed (2 Samuel 11).

David could not undo what he had done; all he could do was to humble himself, and be a recipient of God’s mercy and forgiveness, as described in David’s prayer of confession in Psalm 51. The preface to the chapter in the biblical text explains that these words were written “when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” Verse 17 summarizes David’s repentant state: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” He had no righteousness of his own that he could offer the Lord. He was finally humbled to the point where there was nothing he could say, nothing he could do that would “undo” his sin. And we all get to read about it in the Bible several thousand years later.

Just like with David, our sin also has consequences in both our relationship with God and our relationships on earth. Sometimes our words or actions can be so egregious, that the other person may never want to talk to us again. Once the words or actions are out, there is no taking them back. That’s the bad news.

But there is also some good news. While there is no way to “un-sin,” there is an amazing way that God provided for relationships to be restored, both with Him and with others. That, of course, has to do with forgiveness. Forgiveness was central to Israel in the Old Testament and to Jesus’ message in the New Testament. The linkage between the two was dramatically expressed by John the Baptist when he said of Jesus “Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), linking the old, temporary sacrifices for sin with the new, permanent sacrifice through Christ.

Although we cannot “undo” our sin, it can be paid for, and it was paid for at the cross. We personally benefitted from that when we put our faith and trust in God’s forgiveness. When He was on the cross, Jesus proclaimed “it is finished” (John 19:30). The Greek word is tetelestai, which was an accounting term in New Testament times, typically written on business documents or receipts indicating that a bill had been paid in full. Those witnessing Jesus’ crucifixion may not have understood the significance of what Jesus was saying (in Aramaic) at the time, but it is a word that perfectly describes what Jesus accomplished. What comes through in several Scripture passages is the urgency with which we should respond, for example: 

Proverbs 6:2-5 – “If you have been snared by the words of your mouth, have been caught with the words of your mouth, do this then, my son, and deliver yourself, since you have come into the hand of your neighbor, go, humble yourself, and importune your neighbor. Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids; deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hunter’s hand and like a bird from the hand of the fowler.”

Matthew 5:23, 24 – “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”

For us as believers, we make this an urgent matter because the forgiveness we have received through Christ compels us to do so. We did not earn it, we did not deserve it, we did not merit it in any way. Even if we believe we have not sinned against another person, the fact that the other person may have something against us makes it urgent to find out what is affecting the relationship.

This raises all sorts of questions about forgiveness, such as:

  • What if you think the other person has sinned against you to an even greater degree?
  • What if the other person breaks off the relationship with you?
  • What if the other person simply will not accept your request for forgiveness?

We’ll deal with these in the next blog. Likewise, we’ll talk about ways to help you not say the words you wish you had never said, or do the actions you wish you had never done. The thought life is an important part of this. 

In the meantime, you might want to watch BCF’s two videos on Forgiveness and Reconciliation, recorded in 2017 and always available for viewing at:

But we’ll also cover some of the highlights in the next blog. There are certain metaphors people tend to use or strategies they employ to describe how not to let the words or actions come out, like: “bite your lip;” or “count to ten” or “take a deep breath.” But God’s Word goes much deeper than these superficial strategies. You will see some of that in the videos and we’ll cover some key points next time.

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Steve Smith