Never say you’re sorry

Published 5:23 pm Tuesday, October 1, 2019

By Charles Qualls

I once worked with a senior pastor who received a two-page handwritten note from a longtime church member. This member was disturbed that my friend preached so much on love, grace and mercy found in God through Jesus Christ. Pretty much what the New Testament has to offer, by the way.

This member absolutely berated our pastor for what he called, and I quote, “That soft, tender-hearted mamby-pamby Jesusy love stuff that you offer up week after week. When are you going to tell the sinners that they are sinners?! You preach too much on love. It’s love this and love that. All the time, love. Never repent.”

Mainline moderate pastors know that in any church we serve, many of us suffer under the load of disappointing usually that one person. One person who wishes instead of us preaching on a wide balance of faith matters, we would instead just evangelize each week. They are disappointed with a heavy dollop of grace and love through Jesus Christ, and messages presented in a way that puts love at a premium. You know, since the New Testament presents God as actually being love. Instead, they would rather us pound on sin and the more punitive characteristics of God found especially in the Old Testament.

I don’t have to tell you that “the sinners” these critics always refer to are always someone else. Never the critic themselves. The sins they are stirred up by are never the ones the world around them knows they struggle with themselves. Week after week, they would have me remind us all how wretched a worms we are. We are. Not them.

There was a problem as I got to yesterday’s sermon and the lie it addresses. They’re not all wrong, these critics. They’re mostly wrong. They are far more wrong than they’ll ever understand. But, they’re not all wrong.

These critics are not 100 percent wrong because sin, repentance, confession and forgiveness are a part of our story with God. They are ongoing needs of the Christian soul, because truly none of us are perfect. Psalm 103: 8-14 was our text Sunday as we confronted another lie our culture tells us: Never say you’re sorry.

This psalm brings acknowledgement that we have fallen short of God’s hopes for humanity. That we have wrongs in our souls that need repentance. Our worship readers each Sunday lead us to repent and seek God’s forgiveness at our church.

Of course, my hope for all of us is that we are also far more often practicing confession, repentance and receiving God’s grace-filled gift of Forgiveness in our private spiritual lives. We need to be. We need to be saying we’re sorry to God and each other, too.

Roger Clemens famously fielded a broken bat from Mike Piazza in the second game of the 2000 World Series. The larger part of the bat, through no fault of either player, broke off on a foul ball and flew out toward the pitcher’s mound. Clemens was overflowing with adrenalin and a competitive edge.

As Piazza took off running a handful of steps, not yet knowing the ball was foul, Clemens picked up what was now shaped like a spear and hurled it toward Piazza. It narrowly missed him in what could have been a dangerous situation.

When asked after the game by reporters if he had apologized to Mike Piazza, Clemens murmured something about never apologizing for anything. The sports world was aghast, and because of his statement, the story transcended sports and disturbed people who otherwise wouldn’t have cared about what was going on in a baseball game.

I am convicted that over-emphasis on sins and repentance is wrong. Acting as though they are not part of our relationships with God, or parts of any healthy human relationships as well, just doesn’t work either.

Our culture would tell us to simply be ourselves. God would tell us to be the self we were created to be in the first place. Our culture would tell us to have no regrets. God would tell us to bring the regrets we do have and deposit them at the foot of the Cross. Our culture will tell us never to say we’re sorry. But, we know better.

God would tell us that healthy relationships run on the clarity and honesty, integrity and openness we find when we unload our burdens to the One in our lives who will understand.

THE REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.