There are few things that produce nearly as much joy as your child saying, “I love you,” and knowing it is genuine. Likewise, there are few things as infuriating as that same child ignoring your instructions and then feigning an apology before going right back to what upset you in the first place. Obviously my little guy was guilty of doing this recently. It wasn’t the first time. Typically as soon as he realizes we’re upset with him, he bursts into tears and begins wailing that he’s sorry. In the most recent instance of this, in the middle of his tears he noticed my wife’s phone sitting next to where she was cuddling him back from his shattered state. The free flowing tears immediately stopped. He looked down and chuckled and informed Mommy about a message she’d gotten. The shift was so sudden, so sharply contrasting that I had to say something.
I asked him what he had been sorry about. He didn’t know. I asked him if he knew what sorry means. He said he didn’t. So, my wife and I proceeded to explain it. Of course this got me thinking about how in some theological circles being sorry and repentance are characterized as two different things. Which I can understand. When we say “sorry”, we typically mean we regret something. But trying to explain being sorry without the crutch of that word led us to describe something closer to Biblical repentance.
For a fun fact, the Greek word translated as repent is metanoia. It literally means a changing of one’s mind. As in 2 Peter 3:9 where it says:
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
One of the key points we made to our little guy was being sorry meant you were conscious of your offense and sincere in your desire not to do it again. My wife pointed out saying he was sorry should be as sincere as when he says,” I love you” to us. That got me to thinking about how often my saying “I love you” to God must ring hollow because my “I’m sorry”, that is my repentance, is not as sincere as it should be. It’s too often quick and cheap and forgotten as I do the same wrongs afresh. I won’t go into the litany of sins I personally struggle against, but I will admit to being harsh and accusatory about others motives minutes after having a moment of “repentance” for that very thing. Children so readily reflect the best and worst of us in our relationship with God. The deep, unwavering love that seeks a parent out in times of trouble and produces that incredible joy for its sincerity is mirrored in the questionable comprehension and concern over wrongs. Except magnified, because I’m a flawed human being wronged by my flawed human child. God is perfect. He is infinite. A slight against Him, however small, is in fact a grievous evil. “God is love” (1 John 4:8) but He is also justly a “consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29)
Having experienced how I felt after my son’s errant behavior, I’m convinced I need to be sincere and truthful in all my interactions with God. I long so deeply to hear at the end of my life, “Well done, good and faithful servant…” (Matthew 25:23)