Sorry, Not Sorry
Acts 3:19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…
I am not a very tidy person. In fact, I am a bit of a slob. My wife on the other hand is not. I tend to leave a mess, only later, to say I am sorry for doing so. The thing is, my apology, to date, has not been followed by much actual change. I claim that I am sorry for making the mess and leaving it, and though I truly intend to do better next time, I do not. This, I think, makes my apology insincere and ultimately, empty.
Many of us apologize this way. We act as though just saying the words, I’m sorry, is repentance. We may just be sorry we got caught. We may feel guilty and thus, feel obligated to apologize. Or, we may genuinely feel bad and desire to change. If our apology is not accompanied by a change in behavior however, it is not repentance. When we apologize verbally but continue to engage in the same behavior over and over, we are using empty words to cover our guilt.
In today’s passage, Peter insisted that to be forgiven by God, we must actually repent or turn back. A verbal, I’m sorry, means nothing. If we desire forgiveness, our words must be accompanied by some change or it is not real. Turn back that your sins may be blotted out…
If my defect is gluttony and my sin is overeating, then simply saying, I’m sorry, does not make me skinny. If I eat donuts continually, apologizing after each donut, is not repentance. If I want to be different, if I want forgiveness, if I want the peace that accompanies absolution, then I need to do whatever it takes to stop eating donuts.
This idea may be amusing with donuts, but it has radical implications for my other defects. If I am addicted to pornography, drugs, money, work, affirmation, pride, anger or toys, then I need to continually do whatever it takes to repent, turn back and abandon my destructive behavior. I will not do it perfectly. I will fail. There is always grace for that, but I do not fool God into bestowing his grace on me when I say, I am sorry, with no intention of ever changing.
I remember begging God for forgiveness after every pill I took. I hated myself and I truly wanted to stop. I genuinely felt bad, but I was not willing to confess, go to treatment or change my life. I only said I was sorry as I was desperate to feel forgiven. I needed to assuage my guilt, so I begged God for his mercy. I’m sorry God. I swear, never again… As my words were accompanied by no action however, they were empty and meaningless.
The temptation is to point this concept at someone else. We all know someone who apologizes without really meaning it. The challenge though, from Peter and from God, is to see how we do this. How do we ask for God’s grace with no actual repentance? If we truly want to be forgiven and if we genuinely desire the refreshing that comes from God, then we daily need to abandon self to follow him.
The Seeds of the Spirit is a daily blog based on a walk through the New Testament. Written from the perspective of my own addiction, it explores the common defects of our flesh nature and the solution, our spirit life. If you find it helpful, sign up for the blog as a daily email, tell your friends and like/share it on Facebook.