How often do we hear that expression today? It is a short sentence with many different meanings, some of them good and some of them not so good. Sometimes it is said with empathy, where one who is concerned knows that you are hurting because of some loss or pain in your life and they want you to know that they care and are there for you. AND there’s the person who says, "I’m sorry you feel that way" who is expressing regret that you do not agree with him or his belief that you are wrong and you have no intention of changing. Still at other times it is said because one has done something wrong and they know it. They truly regret what they have done and want to make it right to the best of their ability. When it is said with sincerity in this way, it can go a long way to mend a broken heart. These are all good ways that one can say, "I’m sorry!"

But there are also ways that this expression can be used that are not so good. Too often this expression is said with a dismissive attitude. This is the child who has been caught doing something or scolded by his parents and he THINKS that saying "I’m sorry" is all he needs to do. Usually it is not enough (and who knows better than a parent how it is meant?) Parents should NOT let an insincere child get away with a supposed apology without further action. It is not good for either the child or the parent. And don’t forget the criminal who says, "I’m sorry" when he gets caught with the hopes that it will get him a lighter sentence. And there is the person who keeps doing the same thing over and over and says "I’m sorry" each time he does it. Deep down he WANTS to mean it, and if he could change his behavior like turning a switch on and off, he would do it immediately. But he is not willing to take the necessary steps to change his conduct. His is a superficial apology. Such attitudes ought to be the farthest thing from the mind of a Christian.

These are several ways that we might say, "I’m sorry" and I am sure we could think of others if we took the time. But what we want to notice is that the Christian needs to learn to say, "I’m sorry!"

When a Christian sins he needs to repent. To repent means to change one’s mind. W. E. Vine defines this word by saying it, "…signifies to change one’s mind or purpose. Always in the NT, involving a change for the better, an amendment, and always, (except in Luke 17:3,4) of ‘repentance’ from sins." As a result of changing one’s mind it leads to a change of action. When a Christian truly repents it will cause him to say, "I’m sorry!" to God. This comes from a realization of the seriousness of sin. [Sin puts one at enmity with God. Isaiah cried out this very point against Judah when he said, "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear." (Isaiah 59:2). Romans 3:23 tells us that, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."] 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." John is telling us that we are to acknowledge our sins to God. In essence, we are telling Him, "I’m sorry!" Just like David did when Nathan confronted him and convicted him of numerous sins against Bathsheeba, Uriah, his brethren and God (2 Samuel 12:13). Psalm 32:5, records David’s attitude concerning this. It says, "I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD," And You forgave the iniquity of my sin" When was the last time you told God, "I’m sorry!"? Do you need to tell Him now?

At times we also need to tell our brethren or others that we have wronged, "I’m sorry!" We find in the NT that when we sin against others we need to acknowledge our sins to them. Jesus taught it in the Sermon on the Mount saying, "Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go our way. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:23-24). The prodigal son is an example of this as we are told that "he came to himself" and went to his father saying, "I have sinned against heaven and before you" (Luke 15:18). In essence he was saying to his father, "I’m sorry! Will you forgive me?" James 5:16 tells us to, "Confess your trespasses to one another…" This involves among other things acknowledging wrongs to your brethren. What a wonderful feeling it is to know that you stand right with your brethren in Christ (and in the world).

Finally, there are times when we tell those who will not accept the truth, "I’m sorry you feel that way." When the rich, young ruler came to Jesus as Luke recorded, in essence Jesus expressed regret at the attitude of that young man. (18:22-24). When mans views conflict with God’s teachings we must stand for what is right and say, "I am sorry you feel that way, but I have to obey God rather than man." (Cf. Acts 4:19-20, 5:29). We should express this attitude with glee, but with sadness that a soul rejects the truth. But we simply cannot compromise and be pleasing to God (Jude 9-10, Galatians 1:6-9).

Yes, as Christians we need to learn to say, "I’m sorry!". But let us make sure that when we do that our attitude is what it ought to be. Think about it!

By: Tom Thornhill Jr.

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