I remember as a child being told to tell my sister that I was sorry. I’m sure that every parent has used this technique. Tell your sister you’re sorry. “I’m sorry.” Did that make me sorry? No, it was more likely to make me plan my revenge. Being sorry seldom brings about change. We are usually just sorry we got caught.
In 1970 the number one movie in the U.S. was “Love Story.” The movie is the story of Oliver and Jenny. Oliver comes from an upper class family and is heir to a fortune. At college he meets Jenny, a working-class student. They quickly fall in love.
Jenny reveals her plans for the future, which include studying in Paris. Oliver is upset that he does not figure in the plans. He wants to marry Jenny and proposes. She accepts, and Oliver reassures her that their differences will not matter. Oliver's father tells him that he will cut him off financially if he marries Jenny. They decide to get married against the wishes of Oliver's father, who cuts his son out of his life.
Without his father's support, they struggle to pay Oliver's way through Law School. Jenny gets a job as a school teacher. Oliver graduates third in his class and takes a position in a New York law firm. They are ready to start a family, but when they fail to conceive they go to the doctor. After many tests they find out that Jenny is terminally ill. She begins costly treatment, and soon Oliver feels that he has to seek financial relief from his father. Jenny's last wish is made when she asks Oliver to embrace her tightly before she dies.
The catch phrase from the film is "Love means never having to say you're sorry.” The line is spoken twice in the film: once in the middle of the film, by Jenny, when Oliver is about to apologize to her for his anger, and as the last line of the film, by Oliver, when his father says "I'm sorry" after learning of Jennifer's death.
The line has been repeated in various contexts since. It seems to imply that when you love someone you always behave so that you'll never hurt their feelings and thus you'll never have to apologize. I think we all realize that in real life true love means that we must say I’m sorry.
What is there about a loving relationship that makes us want to say I’m sorry when we have hurt the other person? What about our relationship with God? Do we tell Him, “I’m sorry? If we do, is it because we are afraid of Him?
God doesn’t want us to say I’m sorry because we are afraid of the consequences. He wants us to say that we are sorry because we love him. In Romans 2:4 (NASB) the Bible says, “Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”
What leads us to repentance? Is it anger? Is it fear? Is it God’s law? No, the Bible says it is the kindness of God. Paul puts in another way in 2 Corinthians 7:10 (NKJV). “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation.” I like the way God inspired Paul to put that. Not just sorrow, but godly sorrow.
My favorite verse of scripture is 1 John 1:9 (NKJV). It says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
What does it mean to confess? The dictionary says: to admit or state that one has committed a crime or is at fault in some way. To truly say I’m sorry we have to admit we are wrong. The term repent or repentance takes this idea a step further. The dictionary says that to repent is to feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one's wrongdoing or sin.
What leads us to repentance? What leads us to confess? Is it fear? Is it to avoid hell? Is it to gain the rewards of heaven? None of those are good reasons to say I’m sorry.
We are led to repentance by the kindness of God. When we experience God’s kindness and feel his love, grace, mercy and forgiveness it makes us want to love him. When we love God we want to please him.
Gentle Reader, I hope that you will spend some time each day reflecting on the kindness that God has shown you and tell Him that you are sorry for the things you have done to hurt Him. God has promised that if we confess our sins, if we tell Him that we are sorry, He will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.