PRINCIPLE: “When you’re sorry, be sorry.”
“I’m sorry.” Two simple words. Two difficult words. Simple to say but difficult to mean. Just observe children. They are punished in some fashion and are told they can resume normal activities when they say they ‘Sorry.’ Eventually – sometimes after a lengthy period – they mutter ‘Sorry.’ They may not mean it, they may be cute when they say it – but they may not really mean it. Or they mean it not because of what they said or did, but only because of the discomfort of the punishment they endured. A heartfelt ‘sorry’ is difficult for them.
I have a hunch, however, that such feeble ‘sorrys’ are not limited to children. There have many times in my adult life when I have said ‘Sorry’ only because I knew it was the only way to end a painful experience or avoid further discomfort, or I was sorry for the pain it caused me and not so much because of what I said or did. How about you?
There are several reasons it’s hard to say a heartfelt ‘Sorry’ – but that’s for another note at another time. Today I’m thinking of the fact that if it’s so hard to say ‘Sorry’ to another person, it’s even harder to say it to God. Paul addressed this in his second letter to the Corinthians (7:8-10 NLT): “I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.” “When you’re sorry, be sorry.”
The Psalmist knew the connection between sin and being sorry. (32:3-5) “When I did not confess my sins,was worn out from crying all day long. Day and night you punished me, Lord; my strength was completely drained, as moisture is dried up by the summer heat. Then I confessed my sins to you;I did not conceal my wrongdoings. I decided to confess them to you, and you forgave all my sins.” David initially became sorry because of the punishment he was enduring – but that led him to say he was truly sorry. “I decided to confess them to you…” He was learning that “When you’re sorry, be sorry.” And learn it he did. Notice the difference in Ps. 51:1-4: “Be merciful to me, O God, because of your constant love. Because of your great mercy wipe away my sins! Wash away all my evil and make me clean from my sin! recognize my faults; I am always conscious of my sins. I have sinned against you—only against you—and done what you consider evil. So you are right in judging me; you are justified in condemning me.” His “I’m sorry” arose not out of his suffering but out of his knowledge that he truly offended God. “When you’re sorry, be sorry.”
How is it when you confess your sin to God? Are you saying ‘Sorry’ because of your suffering and punishment, or because you know you’ve offended God, that against him you have sinned? Are you like the Publican (Lk. 18:9-14) who prayed, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”? “When you’re sorry, be sorry.” Perhaps we’d be more sincere in telling God we’re sorry if we looked up from our sin and looked at Jesus – at His nail-pierced hands and feet, and then into his loving, grace-filled eyes. In that moment we will see the reality that our sin was against His love, a rejection of His grace He purchased for us on the cross. I have a hunch we would then be truly sorry and say, “Jesus, I’m sorry. have sinned against you—only against you—and done what you consider evil. So you are right in judging me; you are justified in condemning me. Have mercy on me, a sinner.” Then we will find Paul’s words to be true: “For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow.” So from the depths of your sin, look to Jesus – and you’ll be sorry. And “When you’re sorry, be sorry.” And you’ll have no regrets.