The “I’m Sorry” Cycle
Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works . . . Hebrews 6:1
Every time I used pills, I told myself it was the last time. With every pill, I felt genuine guilt and remorse, so, every time I went to God, asking forgiveness. I said I was sorry, and I promised never again. I meant it – or so I thought. I changed nothing though. Soon, I was back taking pills, feeling guilty, and asking forgiveness. It was a cycle of futility which I repeated a thousand times over 15 years. Looking back, it was absurd that I kept asking forgiveness and promising change. I knew I wasn’t going to change. God knew it. Yet I kept repeating the cycle. I’m really sorry. Please forgive me. I promise, never again . . .
This isn’t just about drugs. I’ve done this with all my addictive, self-destructive behaviors. When I get into the chocolate chips and peanut butter at night, I’m remorseful as I step on the scale the next morning. I promise myself I’ll eat better, but then I’m back at the cupboard that night. Then I feel bad again and make more absurd promises. I change nothing though, and so, nothing changes.
This I’m sorry cycle is the topic of today’s passage. In it, the author of Hebrews warned against repeatedly laying the foundation of repentance and forgiveness. When we come to faith, we’re meant to begin the process of abandoning the old life for the new one. We’re not made perfect in this life though, so this is a process that will continue our entire lives. It is, however, a process in which we are meant to begin and make progress. If we simply believe in God, ask forgiveness, but then change nothing, then we’ll repeatedly fail, feel remorseful, apologize, and then start the whole cycle over again without ever getting anywhere. This isn’t actual repentance. This isn’t faith. This is a ridiculous cycle of futility with which we fool ourselves into thinking we’re followers of Christ.
We all have struggles. We all fail repeatedly. Those repeated failures don’t mean we’re not Christians. If however, all we ever do is fail without growing or changing, then we must ask ourselves if we’re really following Christ. It may be that we’re simply using him to sooth our consciences. If we truly follow Christ, and if we truly want to grow and change, then daily, we must go to God in authentic repentance. This isn’t just saying I’m sorry. This is asking, What do you want me to do to change? Then we must do it. That is authentic faith and repentance.