Does 'sorry' still seem to be the hardest word? Well, maybe not when we see politicians and government officials virtually queuing up to 'apologise' for the mistakes and 'errors of judgement' they've made of late. Not only has our Prime Minister said publicly how sorry he is for some untimely 'party-going', but also for failing to look at his old phone, which went on to cause him a bit of bother over the financing of some home decoration! (And, concerning the latter, he would saved himself a whole heap of trouble if, like me, he'd rolled up his sleeves and simply done the work himself in the first place!)
But just a minute... what lies behind such words of apology? Is there sincere remorse? It would be nice to think so. On the other hand, how often does a public expression of contrition spring from a grudging acceptance that a bit of grovelling is always the right thing to do... under adverse circumstances?
GETTING 'RIGHT' WITH OTHERS
Call me an old cynic if you like, but I can't help feeling that the test of real remorse is a change of attitude and behaviour. For example, I wouldn't mind having a fiver for every background report I've written for Edinburgh Sheriff Court (back in my social work days) expressing, on behalf of the accused person, his or her 'regret' for a particular offence... whilst in my heart of hearts I couldn't help feeling that in most cases the real regret was simply that they'd been caught!
Although we'll never really know what lies behind expressions of public contrition, one thing is for sure, God does. Maybe that's why 'remorse' and even 'regret' don't have much of a place in Scripture. Instead God prefers a word that has virtually disappeared from contemporary lingo, the meaning of which is usually misunderstood nowadays anyway... 'repentance'.
GETTING 'RIGHT' WITH GOD
If we're to 'get right' with God He calls us (actually, it's stronger than that) He commands us to repent...
'...he commands all people everywhere to repent.'
Yet it's not a question of just feeling sorry for our wrong-doing. There has to be real change... a genuine act of will. With His help, He wants us to turn away from all we know to be wrong. And in seeking His forgiveness and receiving His Son, the risen Christ Jesus, by His Spirit into our lives to be our Saviour and Lord, we're given us a completely new start. It's not only genuine sorrow for all our self-centered wrong-doing He wants, this needs to play out in a change of heart, mind and lifestyle. And not only at the point of our becoming a follower of Jesus, but in terms of our daily living... more as an on-going process than a one-off event.
But in a society obsessed with political correctness I'm always just a little bit suspicious of public sorry-saying. Instead, if only more of us would accept the challenge, not just to be sorry... but, with the Lord's gracious help, to be different. Yet, in the midst of all this let's not develop a 'holier than thou' attitude. After all, doesn't something about casting stones come to mind?