What Does 'I’m Sorry' Look Like?

True Repentance

I spend my days working with children- precious, wonderfully unique, beautiful children. They are blessings to me, and I feel responsible for ensuring that they gain academic knowledge. Yet, I feel responsible for more than their academic success.

Teaching academics is difficult, but the hardest part of my job is behavioral discipline. Whether it is disciplining a child who won’t sit on the bus or administering discipline to students who were engaged in a verbal/physical fight, discipline is hard! Why? Because not every “I’m sorry” is equal.

Let’s look at a scriptural account of “I’m sorry” in the book of Hosea where God’s children had wondered from him in disobedience. They said, “Come on, let's go back to God.  He hurt us, but he'll heal us.  He hit us hard, but he'll put us right again.  In a couple of days we'll feel better.  By the third day he'll have made us brand-new, alive and on our feet, fit to face him.  We're ready to study God, eager for God-knowledge.  As sure as dawn breaks, so sure is his daily arrival. He comes as rain comes, as spring rain refreshing the ground. Hosea 6:1-3

Isn’t this so beautiful? God’s people wanted to return to him! They were sorry for their choices, right? Wrong. They weren't really sorry for disobeying God and for their sinful choices, they were simply sorry for getting caught. They were sorry that they had a consequence. If you continue reading into verse 4 God states that the Israelites were not loyal to Him, that their love "vanishes like the morning mist and disappears like dew in the sunlight". He knew their hearts and through their actions he knew they weren't truly repentant of their sins. 

 Photo by  Ben White  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Every time we say, “I’m sorry” for our wrongdoing and our disobedience to God we should be considering the changes that need to take place in our life to ensure that these behaviors don’t happen again. Or, like Israel do we just let “I’m sorry” roll off our tongues not giving a second thought to the changes that must be made? And so I guess my question is whether we are truly repentant when we ask God to forgive us. Are we truly sorry for the pain we caused and our disobedience to God?  Or are we just sorry for getting caught? Our lives speak the answer to those questions. Our actions speak louder than any words or stories we might make up. If we are truly repentant then we will begin to change our lives. We will ask God to search our hearts and begin drawing near to Him for answers and the help we need to change. We would give up our old behavior to become more like Christ’s true disciples.  

After reading Hosea, when I discipline children in my office at school I respond to their statements of, “I’m sorry” by saying,“ I will know you are sorry if we don’t have to talk about this behavior again.” I impress upon them that their future behavior will also determine the level of consequences that they will face if the behavior doesn’t change. Why? Because I love them and don’t want them to continue on in their sin.

You see, if we truly understand how our choices hurt someone (God, others, ourselves) then we would never want to do them again. Sorry isn’t a word. It’s a lifestyle change! God doesn’t want flippant I’m sorries. He wants us to turn from the sin entirely; He wants repentance.

Dear God, show me where I have hurt You and where I’ve hurt others or myself. I choose this day to change my behavior and to hand over my idols so that I can be truly repentant, asking you to forgive my sins and making necessary lifestyle changes. God, I don’t want to hurt You and others with my actions and words. Discipline me, God, so that I won’t return to my poor behavior.

In Jesus' Holy and Precious Name, Amen  

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