I remember as a child being told to tell my sister that I was sorry. I’m sure that every parent has used this technique. Tell your sister you’re sorry. “I’m sorry".
Did that make me sorry? Did it bring about repentance? No, it was more likely to make me plan my revenge. Being sorry seldom brings about change. We are usually just sorry we got caught.
In 1970 the highest grossing movie in the U.S. was “Love Story”. The movie is the love story of Oliver and Jenny. Oliver comes from an American upper class family and is heir to a fortune. At college he meets Jenny, a working-class student. They quickly fall in love.
Without his father's financial support, the couple struggle to pay Oliver's way through Law School. Jenny goes to work as a school teacher. Oliver graduates third in his class and takes a position at a respectable New York law firm. The 24-year-olds are ready to start a family, but when they fail to conceive they consult a medical specialist. After many tests they find out that Jenny is terminally ill.
She begins costly cancer therapy, and soon Oliver is desperate enough over the mounting expenses to seek financial relief from his father. Jenny's last wish is made when she asks Oliver to embrace her tightly before she dies.
The line proved memorable, and has been repeated in various contexts since. It seems to imply that when you "really-truly" love someone you always behave so that you'll never hurt their feelings and thus you'll never have to apologize. I think that we are all smart enough here to know that in real life true love means that we must say I’m sorry.
What is there about a loving relationship that makes us want to say I’m sorry when we have hurt the other person? What about our relationship with God? Do we say I’m sorry because we are afraid of what God will do to us?
God doesn’t want us to say I’m sorry because we are afraid of the consequences. He wants us to say that we are sorry because we love him.
What leads us to repentance? Is it anger? Is it fear? Is it God’s law? Is it your Pastor? No, the Bible says it is the kindness of God. Paul puts in another way in 2 Corinthians 7:10. “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation.” I like the way God inspired Paul to put that. Not just sorrow, but godly sorrow.
True godly sorrow brings about repentance, and true repentance brings about change. God's love for us and His kindness towards us is what leads us to tell God, I'm sorry!
Psalms 17:7 tells us, "show Your marvelous loving kindness by Your right hand, O You who save those who trust in You.
If we look in the New Testament we will find very similar descriptions of God’s kindness. Ephesians 2:7 says, “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus”.
My favorite verse of scripture is 1 John 1:9. It says, "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness".
If we confess our sins God will forgive us. The term repent or repentance takes this idea a step further. The dictionary says that to repent is to feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one's wrongdoing or sin.
What leads us to repentance? What leads us to confess? Is it fear? Is it to avoid hell? Is it to gain the rewards of heaven? None of those are good reasons to say I’m sorry.
We are led to repentance in the Bible sense by the kindness of God. When we experience God’s kindness, and feel his love, grace, mercy and forgiveness it makes us want to love him. When we love God we want to please him; we want Him to live in us and work through us.
Seeing his kindness towards us makes us sorry for the things we have done to hurt him. It leads us to repentance. Seeing God’s kindness towards us makes us want to be like him and show kindness to our fellow human beings.