There is a well known saying that goes ‘Love means never having to say you are sorry’. The premise behind this that is there is genuine love between people then you can take for granted that each party will understand and forgive. You could turn that around and say that if there is love then an apology will be automatically and freely given, and also accepted. That is the is the whole point of saying sorry though there is no doubt that the word is sometimes used and not truly meant. At times an apology is not offered even though it really should be.
A well known song (Elton John 1976) that was popular some years ago called ‘Sorry seems to be the hardest word….’ and was lamenting that the break-up of a relationship often occurred because neither party was willing to say that word ‘sorry’.
The act of baptism is founded on the principle repentance, of saying sorry to God for leading the wrong sort of life and promising, with God’s help, to turn away from that life and to start living a new life in His name.
Some months ago I had a discussion with somebody regarding repentance. He told me that he did say his prayers, he did say he was sorry for things that he knew he had done wrong. So, he said, “I do repent”. However, he then added that he did not repent for everything he had done wrong because he knew that he would do it again. It is a start, I suppose, but I wonder what God made would make of that. I did not take him up on the point because I thought it might be counter productive, I left that with God.
Jesus has much to say about forgiveness; forgiveness from God and about forgiving one another. He talks about being in a right relationship with one another and is firm in saying that you cannot say you love God but hate your brother/neighbour etc. We are told that we should not bring our gifts to God whilst harbouring resentment against another, we should first put things right with the other person whilst recognising that does not necessarily mean that the other will accept the apology. Our duty is to offer that apology sincerely and then we have done what we can to put things right. A question of who was to blame is not the issue, it is trying to put things right that counts.
Perhaps the absence of an apology means that there was no real love in the first place which makes it so very hard to say sorry. John Lennon may have got it right when he wrote that ‘All you need is love’. Simplistic, maybe, but definitely worth trying.