Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Apology – A Godly Construct of Second Chance

“If there’s one thing I’ve worked hard to master it’s saying sorry. As a member of the human race I’ve had plenty of practise.”

This quote of mine above is something a great many people can say, and that, from direct experience in life. We’ve collectively had years of practise and provided our sorry’s have been attached to a genuine humble regret for any pain or inconvenience caused, we’re vindicated.

God’s grace is and always has been enshrined in his universal, unchangeable law. It’s the ability of apologising for wrongs committed or rights omitted. It is the power of initiation toward repentance.

Merely the fact of that Old Testament refrain, ‘God is slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love,’ tells us that even before the proclamation of the New Covenant in Jesus, God forgave. It is his eternal nature.

The apology is the language of the second chance; a thing everyone needs because we all make a botch of things occasionally. The apology is anyone’s way back from failure, and certainly if it’s genuine almost nobody’s going to hold the act or omission against us; we intuit God’s grace in them i.e. his grace works through them.

Being able to easily, humbly and sincerely apologise is a skill of life which covers every wrong.

It is perhaps amazing that the English word, “sorry” (itself), is only found in the New International Version Bible twice—once in Exodus 2:6 and also in 2 Corinthians 7:9.

“yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance.”

—2 Corinthians 7:9a (TNIV).

Paul referred to it as “godly sorrow.” This sorrow—as opposed to worldly sorrow—leads to repentance: a “rising in godly sorrow... [an] issuing forth in earnest care, clearing of themselves [the Corinthians], indignation, fear, longing, zeal and avenging.”[1] Furthermore, “sorrow, according to God, is to see sin as God sees it.”[2]

We see the precedent truly: God’s view. We grieve, for we are beyond simple worldly sorrow.[3] We then align: we then see the justice we’ve retrieved for ourselves, in God. We stand straight again.

As we sow into the act of our sorrowful deed, God miraculously calms the waves in our own hearts—our fretting is eased. And this is good, for fretting only leads to more evil which in turn leads to even more sorrow (see Psalm 37:8) and the horrendous cycle continues.

Paul, in this Corinthian passage, also shows us another effect we have on others in our own sorrow for deeds committed or omitted: our sorrow produces for the other person justice, in vindication, which in turn causes joy to spring forth in them—an open door to reconciliation, via compassion, has been facilitated. It then becomes patently obvious to them affected how devoted we are to them and how our love grieves us for our treatment of them (2 Cor. 7:12).

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret...”

—2 Corinthians 7:10a (TNIV).

We are cleaned, renewed—from the inside out. Again, this is the light of the grace of God shed on the moment. Sorry is the wonderful, momentary response to our sin—our ‘missing of the mark.’ For those in God’s court to become proficient in this practice, there’s no denying—it’s our innate call.

Probably the hardest position for us is being on the offended side of things and issuing, as Paul did, the stimulus to repentance. This is a fine line. It’s something we can (almost cowardly) prematurely forgive, exercising “grace” in the person transgressing us, yet we do them no favours and it excises courage. And, yet, we can easily render our unconditional favour on people as that from God himself i.e. forgiving one’s enemies, for just one example.

Notwithstanding, we’re loath to shift emphases. The ability to genuinely and without hesitation say sorry is a marvel in life—a thing that facilitates the kingdom coming all over us in beautifully-majestic foul swoops.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

[1] Handley C.G. Moule, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians – A Translation, Paraphrase, and Exposition (London, England: Pickering & Inglis Ltd., 1962), p. 75.

[2] Moule, Ibid, p. 75.

[3] “Worldly sorrow, then, is mere regret. Offenders regret what they have done because they have been caught or shamed. Such sorrow is merely pragmatic and does not result in a change in one’s life.” Cited from: Frank J. Matera, II Corinthians: A Commentary – The New Testament Library (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), p. 175.

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