my sermon on regret, based on the movie “get low”

i preached this last weekend at my church. each year, we do a “god at the movies” series, which is wildly loved. the point of the series isn’t so much to recommend movies, or to preach against them (!). it’s more about looking for god-story threads as we find them all over our culture. this year the series was only four weeks long, and the first three sermons were all on blockbusters: the king’s speech, the social network, and inception. i had suggested a gorgeous little movie hardly anyone saw, called “get low“. so when i was asked to preach in the series, they asked if i would take that film. it’s an amazing movie, with robert duvall, sissy spacek, lucas black, and bill murray. really worth seeing.

i’d originally planned on preaching about redemption, since the movie is so strong on that theme. but as i thought about it, i started to realize that all great stories are, in one way or another, stories of redemption. another very strong theme in the movie is regret. so i went with that.

the audio is online. but, for legal reasons, the clips we used from the movie aren’t included. it’s really not the same without the clips; but you can still get the gist of it. you can go to the download page here, or just click here to stream the mp3 directly. or, you can grab it in itunes here.

i’ll paste the high points of my outline here also:


The power/durability/resiliency of an idea – so take extreme care about which one you embrace.

What if the idea you embrace is that you’ve done something unforgiveable, or something you will regret for the rest of your life?

Living with regret can linger for decades – even an entire lifetime – and destroy every aspect of your life.

The evil one would love for you to be shackled by regret. It is the direct opposite of what God desires for you: freedom.

Two unhelpful extremes:
Narcissism/no remorse . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Debilitating regret
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A better metaphor for facing regret: dealing with the TSA
You have to go through it, and it’s not going to be pleasant. You’d love to avoid it, but you can’t, or you won’t get on the plane. And if you make a bigger deal out of it than it is, you only make matters worse for yourself.

Three essentials to living without regret:

1. Dive into grace

Hebrews 10:15-18 — The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

2. Clean up your mess

a. Clarify the regret and grieve it

b. Ask forgiveness; Make amends when appropriate

“Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” – Zaccheus, in Luke 19:8b

c. Accept the consequences as a learning opportunity

Proverbs 24:16 — for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.

d. Process your take-away

2 Corinthians 7:8 – 11 — Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while—yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.

e. Move on

Philippians 3:13-14 — Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

3. Start planting trees (live ruthlessly to prevent regret)

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second-best time is today. (Chinese proverb)

Proverbs 10:9 — Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.

3 thoughts on “my sermon on regret, based on the movie “get low””

  1. Kristen and I loved this talk. I’ve heard you preach, I don’t know, a dozen times, this had the deepest impact for me personally of any of them.

    We haven’t seen the movie… But we will be.

    And I’d rather deal with guilt and regret today than put myself in a self-imposed jail, anytime.

  2. Fantastic film! I was surprised it didn’t get more publicity, especially in the Christian world. And awesome sermon too, regret is one of those concepts that plagues people, but we don’t talk about it often enough.

  3. intriguing movie…not sure “i loved it” or “I enjoyed it” is quite what I want to say but it was definitely thought provoking and well worth watching

    I like how you handled the theme in your sermon too, would have loved to have been there for it

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