January 12, 2004

Sorry
"Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover 
up my iniquity. I said, 'I will confess my 
transgressions to the LORD'- and you forgave the guilt 
of my sin" (Tehillim / Psalms 32:5).

What do the words, "I am sorry" mean to you? I always 
thought they were an expression of regret. If I say I 
am sorry for having done something, I am expressing 
that I wish that I had not done that thing. So I was 
surprised when one of my sons told me how "I am sorry" 
is used among his teenage friends today. He said that 
rather than being a statement of regret or an 
admission of wrong, they are simply declaring that 
they have been caught.

Having not done the research myself, I cannot say for 
certain whether or not my son's observation is 
correct, but I suspect it is. As I have thought about 
it, it does seem that when people say they are sorry 
these days, all they are really doing is affirming the 
fact of their actions, while not necessarily accepting 
any moral responsibility for those actions.

This is consistent with society's rejection of moral 
obligations. Having lost any sense of accountability 
to an objective standard of behavior, most people do 
not feel any need to acknowledge guilt.

When I was a teenager during the 1970s, I had already 
believed that I didn't owe anybody anything for my 
misbehavior. If there is no God, or if God wasn't 
involved in our affairs, what difference did it make 
what I did or said? If life itself has no meaning, 
there was no reason for me to apologize to anyone for 
anything.

As children most of us are taught to say we are sorry 
when we have done something wrong. Without necessarily 
being aware of it, our parents were acting out of a 
moral framework. They were trying to teach us that 
taking responsibility for our wrong actions was 
necessary to set things right in our relationships 
with people and with God. Yet as our society has cast 
off any sense of objective right and wrong, we have 
lost the reason for taking such responsibility. All we 
are left with then is the formula, "I am sorry." 
Therefore people now think that by reciting the 
formula, they release themselves from the consequences 
of their actions.

The reality is God does exist. Moral absolutes exist. 
How we live matters. Whether we believe it or not, we 
are responsible for our behavior. When we reject any 
notion of blame or guilt, we deceive ourselves. 
Denying reality creates in us a confusion that is 
driving us crazy, both as individuals and as a 
society.

If you read last week's Truah message, you might 
remember how my life was changed the day I received 
Yeshua into my life. One of the key elements of that 
experience was my introduction to the concept of the 
forgiveness of sin. As I just mentioned, I had come to 
a place in my life where I didn't see any need to ask 
forgiveness of anyone for anything. Looking back now, 
it is surprising to me that I so easily accepted the 
notion that I had done wrong before God, and that 
there was a need for me to ask his forgiveness, but I 
did.

I think that it was that understanding that helped 
make the difference that day. Once I realized that my 
actions had offended God and that I needed his 
forgiveness, I was in a place to receive that 
forgiveness.

We all need to be forgiven by God. It is wonderful 
that he has made it possible to forgive us through the 
Messiah. But for us to experience forgiveness, we must 
understand what it means to say "I am sorry."