Big Enough To Say It

Published 11:28 am Saturday, January 20, 2024

By Michael J. Brooks

Richard Nixon gave me the love of presidential history when I began to read what I could to understand Watergate. This season of our history has so many “what if’s?” Pundit Ann Coulter suggested if the president had only fired G. Gordon Liddy, then the break-in wouldn’t have happened. 

I used to hear Liddy on the radio. He sounded like a gentle soul, not a domestic terrorist, but the nefarious plan seems to have been his.

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Another lesson from this era comes from the infamous White House tapes. As someone said, “Nixon bugged himself.” Evidence from the White House tape recordings became damning evidence after the Supreme Court ordered them released. Richard Nixon became the first American president to resign in August 1974.

I’ve often used these tapes as a sermon illustration since Jesus said we’d be held accountable for every idle word we speak (Matthew 12:36). God has a taping system, as it were, and hears every word we say.

But we know in this 21st century our words can live a long time on planet earth before we get to heaven. Social media and texting preserve conversations that may return to assault us.

Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworski commented, “What sank [Nixon] was his lying. People can tolerate a great deal in their public officials. If a person is big enough to say, ‘I did it,’ he’ll be forgiven.”

Of course, Nixon wasn’t the first, nor the last politician to lie, but I was struck by Jaworski’s statement. Is it true that people will forgive if we’re honest about our wrong? I suppose we all know instances of brokenness without resolution, as well as instances of restoration and grace.

I think of two instances when church members were given another chance by their believing friends.

One man took cash from the church, insisting he’d paid it back, but there was no way of knowing. The church later asked him to serve on the finance committee. He was able to share his expertise in a position that didn’t handle cash. Another man I knew had a serious failure in his life for which he sincerely repented. The church later asked him to serve as a deacon.

Jesus’s most famous story is about the prodigal son—a child of privilege who found himself in the muck and mire of the pig pen before he repented. The prodigal had a brother whom we often overlook. The brother didn’t welcome the prodigal home, and, as far as we know, never offered him forgiveness.

You and I are portrayed in both characters.

The prodigal demonstrates that we need to ask the father’s forgiveness.

The elder demonstrates that we need to forgive one another.

“Reflections” is a weekly faith column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, Alabama. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.