I hear my mother’s voice in mine, “Say you’re sorry.” I hear my voice in my child’s, “Sorrryyyyy” – you know the tone. An ability to say the word and make it devoid of any meaning. It has been forced and it is said to get out of trouble. It is a word and nothing more.
I bump into someone in the street. I quickly say, “I’m sorry.” My husband rolls his eyes at me. We have had the conversation countless times. They bumped into you, you don’t need to say sorry. He is right. It is too valuable a word to use incorrectly. I am training myself to ask, “Are you ok?”. Just because it is not my fault doesn’t mean I can’t express care and concern.
I am in an argument with my husband. We have both done the wrong thing. (A chaplain’s house is of course like any other.) I say, “I’m sorry I was angry, but you ….” I am not really sorry, am I? I am just giving some ground so that I can continue pushing for my version of events.
The word the Bible uses for sorry is the word repent. It is deep with meaning. To repent means to turn around from living one way and to turn back to God. To allow God’s ways to shape our ways. God’s promise is that when we say sorry with hearts longing for change, Jesus has done at the cross all that is necessary for forgiveness. The Bible’s message is when I wrong Mr Rev I have actually wronged God. My sorrow must be both to God and to my husband.
Acts 3:19 says Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. Saying sorry is powerful because God offers forgiveness in Christ which brings refreshment and enables relationships to grow.
I lie in bed and know I have done the wrong thing. I cannot imagine how I can put it right. I say I am sorry. No one hears but me and God. I know that in that moment God forgives me in Christ. I know that he will make me brave enough to say sorry to those I have hurt. I know that if I walk with him he will help me work toward putting things to right. It might be painful but it will be worth it. I know the refreshment that only Jesus’s forgiveness can offer.
In a week where we recognise as a nation that we have greatly wronged our Indigenous brothers and sisters I am thankful for the God who promises to bring refreshment to those who say sorry. My prayer is that both as individuals and as a nation we will walk in Gods ways, that we might love our neighbours as Jesus called us to.
I am sorry. I am sorry that I have personally benefitted from great wrongdoing. I ask God to show me how to live rightly in light of this. I acknowledge that I have contributed to the wrongs done to our first people in action and in failure to act. I repent and ask for forgiveness.
Rev Jenni Stoddart is the Chaplain at Abbotsleigh, an Anglican school for girls. She is an Anglican Deacon who has worked in Sydney Parishes for 20 years focussed on youth, children and families. She loves preaching God's word whether the hearer is 5, 15, 25 or 75 and even more when the generations are all in together.