Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Saying "I'm Sorry"

I realized while writing in my journal on Saturday that there's a big difference between saying "I'm sorry" and "Will you forgive me?" You may think it's a mere matter of semantics--and I'll let you retain that right--but I think there's a lot more to it.

You see, I'm finding that it's so much harder to ask for forgiveness than to say I'm sorry for doing something. Myabe it's just me, but I get this gut-rumbling, gulp! gotta-swallow (my pride) feeling when I'm deciding between saying "sorry" and the "f-word." (This, of course, usually occurs while I'm nervously twiddling my thumbs and my eyes cast downward--anywhere, really, but at the person I've injured.)

You see, forgiveness can only occur when an actual wrong, an injury, a trespass, has been committed. It has to named for what it is--and then never held against the offender again. "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you," St. Paul exhorts the Ephesian church (Ephesians 4:32). If I ask someone to forgive me as in Christ God forgave me, then that's painful. God didn't just nonchallantly wipe away our sins. "Eh, it's no big deal. You were flawed anyway, and I'm immutable by human deeds, so no big deal. Shall we let bygones be bygones and call it even?" No, when God forgave us in Christ, he declared our sins for what they really were. "Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross" (Colossians 2:13-14 NLT). God didn't hide our sins or gloss over them. Like the Roman executors' custom, God made public our list of offenses, nailing to the cross. Upon Calvary, however, God didn't nail a placard to the cross detailing our sins; he nailed the Sinner himself, Jesus Christ, who bore our own sins in his body.

Asking for forgiveness is hard because it means I must acknowledge that I didn't just make a mistake; I didn't just slip up or have a momentary lapse in judgment. I sinned. I willfully and selfishly did something wrong (gasp!) to another person. It's hard to say that--not only to myself, but to the injured. It's much easier to say, "I'm sorry," because that just implies nothing wrong was really done, perhaps just something regrettable. "I'm sorry for doing that" really means, "I regret the fact that this happened, but I don't really intend to do anything about it." Of course, we can easily believe our own lies, so if we simply say "sorry" enough, it's easy to feel better about ourselves: I didn't do anything deliberately wrong, at least nothing inexcusable, and I've now made proper amends for it. Yeah, right.

But the Cross of Christ speaks a different word. There God exposes us each as manipulative, selfish mercenaries and proves us utterly impotent at making proper amends. But there he also freely provides the only One who is sufficient to make proper amends and to the uttermost atone for all our sins. Yes, even the sin of saying "I'm sorry."


Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

Nicely said - and btw - I love you!

Andrew said...

I love you too!

Ted M. Gossard said...

I guess I could have asked for forgiveness on Susan's blog recently, and that may have been better. I guess I'm just too fuzzy sometimes and see through a glass more than just darkly, perhaps. Maybe just the deceitfulness of sin. Reminds me of the searching prayer of the psalmist we all need to keep praying, "Search me O God, and know my heart. Test my anxious thoughts and see if there's anything hurtful and wicked in me. And lead me in the way everlasting."

Good words, and a good reminder, Andrew.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I should say, surely would have been better. I guess better to err in that direction than not. Although I don't believe anyone took offense, as far as I know. (wow, this gets complicated when I start thinking about it!)

Ted M. Gossard said...

Hope all is well with you over there. I know your special day with Olivia is coming soon.

Blessings on you both.