January 12, 2004
"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
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
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
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
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."