Monday, January 18, 2010

Apology versus Repentance

One of the things that the world does not understand is repentance. To repent is to turn away from something and turn to its opposite. In Christian terms it means turning away from your sin and turning to the everlasting arms of Jesus Christ for forgiveness. Now repentance consists of admitting your sin, and then turning to the one who forgives us of our sin and by his power, the power of the Holy Spirit, avoiding such sin in the future.

Our culture does not understand this and it is getting worse. Apologies now are a joke and show us that people do not really understand what apologies are about. Repentance is what is needed not the so-called apologies we so often hear today. Let us just look at a few of the recent ones.

“I wish I had never touched steroids,” McGwire said. “It was foolish and it was a mistake. I truly apologize. Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era.”

Here we see McGwire apologize for playing in the steroid era, not for actually being apart of it. Not for causing the steroid era. Who is to blame in this apology? Not Mark. No, the problem lies with the era in which he played. I can’t reprint the whole thing, but it got worse as he denied actually getting any real benefit from the steroids, which makes one wonder why he is apologizing for them at all.

Adam Lambert, an American Idol loser, who kissed his gay keyboard player on national TV apologized by saying “Maybe that wasn’t the best first impression to make again… or the first second impression.” He also said that it was not obscene. Any apology that includes the word “maybe” is not a real apology, but rather an attempt to deflect the negative consequences for one’s bad behavior.

Tiger Woods put out an apology where he admitted he did not live up to his own principles, and that he was not perfect and had made transgressions. That was actually a rather good apology if he had left it right there. His apology is five paragraphs, but three (the longest three) paragraphs are about the transgressions, not himself, but of the press trying to get the story. Then his last paragraph returns to his own failure and he makes another mistake. “For all of those who have supported me over the years, I offer my profound apology.” Not only is it bad to spend most of your apology talking about the evil press, but it is also wrong to apologize only to your “supporters”. If I am not a golf fan or a Tiger fans, was I not offended? Do I get an apology too?

Of course politicians are my favorite. Take a look at Senator Dick Durbin apologizing for calling Guantanamo Bay a “gulag” and Nazi comparisons. In this apology Senator Durbin apologizes for only the negative effects or insinuations from his comments, and never actually the comments themselves. He apologized for any negative light his words might have cast and some believed they were across a line, and to them he apologized. He apologized for pain and grief some took from his words. The words are the bad guys, not Dick Durbin. And for those who had the belief that they were wrong, you guys get an apology. That is not an acknowledgement that what he said was wrong. It is like someone saying, “I am sorry you got upset when I hit you.” Not a real apology. Of course in D.C. this apology was considered honorable.

The Bible of course gives us plenty of examples of real repentance. Psalm 51 is one of the great examples of that. First, we see that David turns to God. Asking God to wash him and forgive him. It is to God we must turn for help and it is against Him that we have sinned. All of the above apologies fail to acknowledge the Lord. David admits his sin in verse 3. He does not duck it, he does not qualify it. He is not apologizing that he got Bathsheba pregnant, but for the sin itself, not just the bad consequences that came from it. Verse 4 is an acknowledgement that God is the one sinned against. No longer do our apologies in this world admit that God is the author of the standard, and it is also to Him we owe an apology. David goes on to fully admit his iniquity and beg for purification and the help of the Lord. This is the admitting of sin and the turning to God for help. David knows that on his own he is nothing, he needs the clean heart from God to avoid such sins in the future. Notice also verse 13. Then after forgiveness David will go forth and teach others about God and how not to sin (by relying on Him). This is not something one sees in apologies much any more. Now they want to apologize and be left alone. They did their apologizing, now they want the subject dropped. Yet, David wants to go and teach others how to avoid sin and teach them the ways of God.

Our culture has rejected Christ as it standard, so it is not surprising to see that apologies today are man-centered and not directed at all to God. But, now the culture is losing the idea of standards altogether. Apologies are no longer really apologies for behavior, but apologies that others did not like what happened. That is not the same thing. Do not make the mistake of thinking that these sort of pseudo-apologies are only for the rich and famous. Oh no, they are making their way down to our youth. Soon, the idea of repentance will altogether be lost. Soon Christians will not only have to teach people to be sorry for their sins, but how to be sorry for their sins. Pray God sends a spirit of repentance upon us all, so that we might rightly confess our sin and our dependence upon Jesus Christ himself.