Love Means Saying You're Sorry
By Lisa Harper
Because I’m a big talker my mouth tends to get me in trouble. Some of my blunders are relatively benign, like when I asked a total stranger who had a noticeably pokey tummy when her baby was due and she retorted, “I’m not pregnant!” (I learned the hard way to not ask women about their due dates.) But sometimes I wrap words around metaphorical daggers that have the potential to deeply wound others.
Recently the victim of one of my verbal knives called and asked me to go to lunch. Although much time had passed since I expressed my less-than-kind thoughts, anxiety welled up at the thought of seeing her again. The Holy Spirit added to my emotional distress by elbowing me and prompting, It’s time for you to admit what you did and tell her you’re sorry.
Justifications raced through my mind. She’s said some ugly things about me too, God! Can’t we just pretend it never happened, since she seems oblivious? But God’s Spirit was gently insistent that I needed to own up to my dirty little secret of slander. By the time I walked into the restaurant, my pulse was racing under the strain of lugging around the burden of remorse.
I suffered through small talk while nibbling on a salad then when there was a lull in our conversation told her I needed to say something. The confession that followed was clumsy. My tongue got tangled up. I felt my face get red. Mine wasn’t one of those beautiful movie confessionals with violins playing in the background. It was messy. It was humiliating. But it was also an enormous relief to take off that heavy backpack of guilt, to restore honest rapport with an old friend, and to be liberated from the shame wedged like a painful splinter in my relationship with Jesus.
I like what C. S. Lewis says in the Problem of Pain about confession: “A man who admits no guilt can accept no forgiveness.” Which is why I think taking inventory of our own depravity – being aware of both our penchant for and practice of sin – is a necessary aspect of worship. It certainly seems to be the theme of this familiar story from Luke’s gospel account:
One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house… A woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little” ( Lk. 7:36-47, ESV).
This chick was so wholly undone by Jesus’ grace that she broke free from the chains of religious propriety. It didn’t matter what anyone else thought – even the influential Pharisees with arched eyebrows – all that mattered to her was heaping gratitude at the feet of her Liberator. Her abandon illustrates how true worship is directly proportionate to our comprehension of divine absolution!
Since God has graciously given many of us positions in ministry leadership, wouldn’t it be cool if we actually led by example when it comes to humility and confession? Just a thought from one mistake-prone girl to another.