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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Stop Being Sorry

A month ago, just as I took a temporary, unplanned break from blogging, I scribbled down this question: “Must we be sorry forever?”

Psalm 38:20 was part of my reading, that day:

“Those who render me evil for good are my adversaries because I follow after good…” (NRSV).

Friends, this is not a claim that I have it all together.  Have you read me? But in fairness, I do think we need to come to pivotal moments in life when enough is enough.  What do we think redemption is, anyway?

Fast forward to today…

God doesn’t stay angry. 

This seems like a strange thing to say, in more ways than one.  I struggle with the image of an angry God, and I think even our Scriptures paint God in a certain light precisely because of antiquated theology that was appropriate for the cultural context of the time and place in which Scripture was penned.  This doesn’t make it any less true, but it does cause me to pause and seek the point of the words more sincerely than the words, themselves. 

Psalm 30:5 seemed helpful to me, today:

“For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime.  Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (NRSV).

OK.  I can live with that.  We all can literally live with that.  These words are God breathing fresh life into broken stuff… into broken us.  I don’t really know how angry God gets, but I suppose if there is anyone who has a right to be angry, it’s God.  And I guess I have to think that God does get angry about injustices and suffering and evil in the world that brings pain, but I also have to be careful not to make God into me.  I have to be so careful.

This moment, though, has me considering what it is to accept that God might get angry but to also allow for a scenario in which God’s anger dissipates.  It is most difficult when I think God is angry with me.  It is most difficult when I think God has reason to be angry with me.  It is helpful to know that even if that line of thinking pans out (and I actually don’t know whether or not it does), it’s not permanent. 

Ezekiel 39:28-29 is telling.  After the author details the ways in which God has been angry with Israel… with God’s own people…  After the author details the ways in which God has abandoned God’s people…  We get these words:

“…I will leave none of them behind; I will never again hide my face from them, when I pour out my spirit…” (NRSV).

This…  Oh, friends… this…

It’s the answer to my question.

Must we be sorry?

Yes—personally, communally, systemically; we must be sorry.

Must we be sorry forever?

Well, maybe still yes, but that doesn’t mean we must be overwhelmed with guilt or shame.  God is done with that!  We, also, need to be done with it.

Today, as people greatly forgiven, may we offer mercy.  May we choose not to hide our faces, but to accept forgiveness and to launch ourselves into the center of the hurting in order to bring healing, not because we need to be continually apologetic but because we have chosen now to follow good… to be the examples of love in our homes, in our communities, and around the globe. 

Let’s stop just being sorry and start being salvific.  This is what confession looks like.


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