You may have seen all the buzz about Alan Jones recently. Mr Jones is known for his shock-jock style, and is undeniably opinionated. He was addressing a Young Liberals meeting, when he said that the Prime Minister’s father died of shame for the PM’s lies.
Currently there’s huge fallout over it; some people think it’s been blown up, some say it’s typical of Alan Jones. Some are blaming Tony Abbott. Some are saying Abbott has no need to apologise for statements he didn’t make. The political parties are at each other’s necks in the usual way; accusing one another of disrespect and hatemongering in ironically vitriolic tone. Alan Jones made an apology, but many people have picked it up as an apology merely to his advertisers and sponsors.
I’m not going to comment on that. What I’ve been thinking about is what does it mean to be sincere in apology? I think the biblical model is pretty clear; it’s never about lip service. Whether it’s to do with sexual immorality, love, jsutice or theology, we are to respond with out whole lives. Words are not enough. Actions are not enough. A so-called conviction of the heart that isn’t accompanied by action is deceptive and false. Just as this is true of our salvation and response, so it is true for our apology.
I’ve been reading Ezra and Nehemiah. The thing that always strikes me about these books is the prayerfulness of the leaders and the way they don’t shy away from their own track record. In a culture in which respect to the fathers and pride in ancestry were huge, Ezra and Nehemiah are happy to concede that their ancestors have been proud and presumptuous. They also recognise that they themselves are guilty. They truly grieve for their sin, and turn back to God. They commit to serving him once more, and they give time to hearing his word and understanding what he says. They align their lives and priorities as he demands.
This ought to inform us – and rebuke us – about our apologies and repentance both to God and to other people. When we apologise, it cannot be merely words, or going through the motions. It must be legitimate. Do we actually grieve for our actions and their consequences for the other party? Do we acknowledge, with no excuses, our own failings and guilt in the matter? Do we commit to repairing the relationship and serving them to show that we value a restored relationship?
I think often my apologies have been out of duty rather than out of genuine grief at my causing pain. I think we need to ask God to put it on our hearts to love. One cannot be sincere in apology if they do not care for the one they have hurt. It is far too easy to slip into apathy.
I was also challenged by how it works the other way around; Nehemiah turns back to God humbly, grieving for his sin and that of the nation. He has confidence, however, that God will forgive. God’s track record and character reveal that genuine repentance will always be received with mercy and grace on God’s part.
I wonder if someone would be able to come to me with confidence of their forgiveness. If there was a rift, would someone be able to apologise and know that I would be joyful rather than judgemental. I’m blessed with good relationships and not too many tough situations, but I’m not sure that were such a scenario to arise, others would feel confident of acceptance. We can repent and turn to God, confident that all will be forgiven, and God will love us. We also ought to be eager to love those who come to us.