When you are in charge of making teenagers do things they would not otherwise do, you get apologized to frequently, very very frequently.
Sometimes it is in response to a raised voice, a sharp calling of their name. Sometimes in response to a raised eyebrow. Sometimes it is is seconds after they have done whatever it is they just did, which they know they are not supposed to do, but somehow they could not resist.
“I’m sorry” I hear it every day I think. “I’m sorry Ms. Norman” I’m really sorry.
Those words almost never means the repentance they promise to me. Instead that phrase means something else entirely. “I am sorry you caught me doing this.” “I am sorry this thing I am doing is against the rules.” Sometimes those words mean “please don’t punish me” or “please stop yelling.””Please don’t make me suffer consequences.” But rarely do they mean that anything is going to change. The offender has every intention of continuous offense.
Like an overused eraser on a worn opening line someone is trying to get just exactly right, I’m sorry is often used until it rips through my patience and renders itself completely useless.
“If you were sorry you would stop” I tell the offender who has been caught/with his phone/talking to a friend/ late to class far too many times. “If you were sorry you would stop.”
Jesus doesn’t tell the woman at the well to feel bad about her behavior. He doesn’t tell her she must feel bad. He tells her to go and sin no more. He does not desire from her a weeping and wailing. He desires from her a changed heart, evidenced by a changed life style.
Coming face to face with Jesus empowers this women to change, not to feel bad, not to be sorry. I am coming to the conclusion that when face to face with Jesus, when confronted with my own sin, I have made the mistake of simply being sorry I do something. Sorry isn’t repentance. Feeling bad is not what my Lord desires of me.
He wants me to stop. He wants to empower me to go and sin no more. He knows the truth in the phrase I sometimes spit at my students in frustration. My changed life can speak for the change in my heart. If I was really sorry, I would stop.