It was on this day in the year 1927 that, in a public letter written to Louis Marshall, Henry Ford of the Ford Motor Company retracted and apologized for the spurious, “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” As you may know, this publication made fantastic accusations and claims against individual Jews and against Judaism at large, claiming that the Jewish religion was a grand conspiracy to destroy the world. Unfortunately, by the time Ford penned his apology, a lot of damage had been done — and even more unfortunately, damage continues to be done to this very day. At least, Mr. Ford had the courage and decency to publicly admit his error and apologize for his sin.
There are two lessons that we can learn from this. The first is, just because you have the right to say something doesn’t mean it’s right to say. Like a bullet fired from a gun, once you’ve pulled the trigger, you can’t get that bullet — or those words — back in the chamber. It’s already out there and, undoubtedly, doing a lot of damage. Words are hurtful and can be deadly. In fact, the Bible tells us that bitter words are like arrows that the wicked use to shoot at their target, often in secret. Solomon had this to say:
“A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul. The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body.” (Proverbs 18:7-8)
The other lesson we can glean from Ford’s mistake and subsequent apology is, when we have offended someone, we should do what is right and, to the best of our ability, try to make amends. I realize that should be a no-brainer to believers, but unfortunately, there are many who feel the best way to handle a situation such as this is to ignore the situation. Of course, they pray and ask God to forgive them but, more often than we’d like to admit, make no effort to go to the person they have wronged and admit their sin. We all know that this is not right and, in fact, ignores what Yeshua had to say on the matter.
“Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)
In other words, before things can be the way they are supposed to be with God, we have to try and make things right with our brother. This way of handling issues such as these is based on the notion that there are two primary commands we must follow — “Love God with all of your heart” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Just because we ask God to forgive us doesn’t mean we can pretend everything is okay between us and our brother. Determining to move on without an attempt at reconciliation doesn’t bring any resolution to the problem. That person will continue on but with the knowledge that you did nothing to make things right.
The point is, sometimes we have to be bold enough — and humble enough — to say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong; will you forgive me?” When we have wronged another, that person needs to hear us acknowledge that we have wronged them. We need to be willing to admit our sin if we are going to be free of it. In that line of thought, I have long believed that sin is not the greatest problem facing mankind. The greater problem is an unwillingness and failure to confess our sins.
As we all know, there is a recourse for the sin: Messiah suffered for us and rose again so that the guilt of our sin might be pardoned. That is why I say that sin, in and of itself, is not the greatest problem we face — because there if forgiveness when we acknowledge our sin. However, what can be done if a person fails or refuses to acknowledge their sin? What recourse is there for that? How can there be resolution? And so the lesson we should take from this is, when it is called for, make every effort to apologize to your neighbor so that there can be peace among brethren and that the LORD might be pleased. If Henry Ford can do it, so can we.