Are you really sorry? Do you really forgive?

“It is easier to say sorry than to get permission.”

How often I hear people use this as an excuse to justify getting things done their way.  Then follows a very lame and insincere apology.  Sadly I have to confess to being guilty of this bad attitude at times. 

But there are issues around this attitude.  It shows theological misunderstanding of the Biblical understanding of leadership, submission, repentance and forgiveness.  God appoints leaders and God brings sorrow into our lives in order to bring us to repentance and restoration.  Repentance is a turning away from sin and turning to God.  Sorrow, that leads us to repentance is a deep realisation that what I/we have done is wrong, we are on the wrong path and need to bring about a change in attitude, because we have sinned against God (Psalm 51:4). 

Hebrews 13:17 “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.  They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.  Obey them so that their work will be joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

Firstly we need to face the fact that it is God who appoints people to leadership and calls us to submit to those in leadership and to be accountable.  When we don’t, for various reasons, we could well be defying God.  There may be times when we have ungodly leaders and directives, and we may be faced with a decision, do we obey God or man.  But those are the very difficult exceptions and not the norm.  When government and leaders clearly defy the absolute rule and law of God, when they sin and are wrong we may need to take action to do the Godly righteous thing.  To read more about this we refer to Francis Schaeffers ‘A Christian Manifesto.’ Schaeffer addresses the loss of morality and freedom because off the turning away from God’s law to humanism and ultimately to an anti-God society and culture.  There needs to be confession and real repentance in sad situations like this.

Think of King David in the situation he found himself.  Knowing he was anointed to be the next king, seeing King Saul make mistakes, yet he waits for God to make things happen.  As a Baptist, we see the Church body as the highest decision-making body for Christians.  So, in a local Church situation, if all else fails (Matt 18), the matter needs to be taken to a Congregational meeting.  We cannot simply start doing because we get frustrated or feel our leaders are not able.  This is rebellion against God. 

You cannot be doing things for the wrong motives when you, in fact, know that those in leadership or those to whom you are accountable would most likely stop you.  But with a sense of achievement and a level of satisfaction you feel you got something done or got the better of those in authority, those who perhaps have more wisdom and experience than you.  Perhaps your leader knew something you did not know and had another plan in mind.  There could be many reasons why ‘leadership’ may not want something to be done at that time.  You and I may not always be ‘privy’ to those reasons or discussions and may not be in a position to see the big picture.  Leaders do make mistakes, but there are right ways of engaging them to bring about change when needed.

Much more can be said on this, but we will leave this matter there.

A second issue we need to face is insincere sorrow.  When we have a casual attitude and use terminology such as is in our heading, we show disrespect to God first by rejecting God’s appointment and making ‘sorry’ something it is not to be.  To say we are sorry when in fact we are quite pleased with ourselves is a sign of our deep-seated unrighteousness in making something meant for our good something debased and simply serving our own purposes to achieve power and get ‘one over’ someone else. 

Godly sorrow leads to repentance, 2 Cor.7:9-10.  When this saying is used most often it is with a sense of getting your way and there is no real sorrow.

This brings us to the third unbiblical and theologically incorrectness of this saying and the attitude behind it. 

God takes people seriously.  When God creates people he gives them skills, gifts and abilities.  In Psalm 139:13-17, we see a great expression of God’s care when creating people.  This is not the place to delve into God’s purposes for creating mankind, simply to acknowledge that God allows us to be part of his purposes for good by serving him.  He places people in positions of ministry and accountability.  When we disregard this and ignore those whom God has given certain ministries too, we ignore God’s purposes and we ignore how seriously God deals with people.  John the Baptist said it well in John 3:27, “To this John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven” and we need to take seriously God’s dealing with people and not casually circumvent getting permission from the right people and following agreed on protocols and procedures.  This is ungodly and leads to chaos and anarchy removing God’s blessing.

Another result, fourthly of this ungodly pragmatism, “It is easier to say sorry than to get permission” this destroys relationships by destroying trust.  If everyone simply ends up ‘doing their own thing’ without due respect to others, there is no more trust and order.  This is anarchy, the issue is not how much money was used, or how important the issue was, the issue is that we have acted in an ungodly way and started down the path of lawlessness and chaos.

One taxi driver jumps a traffic light and gets away with it.  This leads others to follow the example until ‘everybody’ sees ‘everybody’ getting away with moving violations.  What are the results, danger and carnage on our roads.  But we do exactly the same in our Christian walk when we live by this pragmatic humanism, “It is easier to say sorry than to get permission.”

So next time you say sorry, mean it.  If your ‘sorry’ does not lead to repentance and restoration, take the time to think about why not.  Hebrews 12:14, this will foster love, respect and wonderful cooperation and harmony between Christian brothers and sisters.  Better still, show respect to others, not by ignoring them and doing your own thing, but by interacting with them.  You may be surprised that this may lead to some wonderful moments of true Christian fellowship, a rare thing even in the church now days.