We’re Sorry, Again and Again

September 16, 2009 by

Recently, Just Wallpaper published an open letter to those who have been burned by churches. I’ve either heard or seen similar apologies other places, and I just can’t decide how I feel about them.

This apology is certainly well-communicated, poignant and heartfelt, but will anyone read an apology letter on someone’s blog and suddenly be ready to join a church? It’s my hope that this apology letter won’t stay on a blog, but it will become real, honest and unstated–manifesting itself in life change and real relationships far more than blog posts.

I’m not saying this blogger is guilty of any or all of these. But I think before we do what seems hip and loving, we should ask ourselves a few questions:

Who reads this stuff anyway?
Are all of these blog readers Christians? It’s pretty easy to fall into the trap of in-talking amongst believers about all that we want to do or should do, without actually doing anything. I’ve definitely fallen into this trap myself. Hopefully the idea is to share this with some non-Christian friends. Even better, the author might have already shared it with some of his secular friends, and he’s just posting it for encouragement. Teaching is all right, but doing is what matters.

Inexplicable cussing
It seems like in each iteration of apology letter, public statement of regret, etc. that is aimed at non-Christians, there’s a subtle hint of, “See, I cuss! You don’t have to stop swearing to be a Christian.” Maybe that’s the case, but Ed Young would say you’re trying to be cool.

Is this publicly skewering brothers and sisters in Christ to gain street-cred with secular peers?
This is the big one, and I think it comes in lots of forms. The search for a new vocabulary is one that I wrote about recently. Since Blue Like Jazz debuted, apology booth included, it seems like Christians have been apologizing so much that it gives the appearance of throwing others under the bus. I just don’t think this is in line with Christ’s exhortation that “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35, NASB)”

As the marketers of the church, it’s our call to be in the world and let the light of Christ shine. When we live a life of fullness and love, we replace misconceptions and bad experiences of those around us with a new definition of Christianity. And that will do far more than an open apology letter ever will.

Post By:

Joshua Cody

Josh Cody served as our associate editor for several years before moving on to bigger things. Like Texas. These days he lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, and you can find him online or on Twitter when he's not wrestling code.
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5 Responses to “We’re Sorry, Again and Again”

  • Eric Wholley
    September 16, 2009

    Excellent post, Joshua.
    I really appreciate the way you describe your ambivalence about this topic. Very thought-provoking. Perhaps we can collectively appreciate this type of public apology (however crude or unsophisticated) as the start of a discussion between the secular community and Christians.
    Maybe I’m being naively hopeful here, but I wonder if at least some of the secular community greet such apologies as an invitation to better understand the many fruits of Christianity.(?)
    Thanks again for this. God bless the work you do.

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  • Matt Norman
    September 16, 2009

    As I read this I am reminded of 2 Corinthians 7:10, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
    In this we are told that if our sorrow is truly Godly, then it will lead to changed behavior. My father says it like this, “Sorrow without changed behavior is only words.” I fear that the Christian community is quick to apologize, but is slow to change. Unfortunately, this can actually do more damage than good. When our sorrow is not Godly, we run the risk of sending a message that we are sorry about this, but not enough to stop doing it. It would be my wish that instead of apologizing lets just make the change. Let’s SHOW the world that we are sorry for the damage that the church has done. Let’s show them with our actions.
    I don’t want to downplay the value of a heartfelt apology. I simply think that we need to make sure that we are ready to change before we say we are sorry. My pastor recently said that there is a difference between our intentions and our direction. It is our direction, not our intentions, that determines where we are going. Considering this, I just think we need to make sure that our direction is in-line with out intentions before we start telling people how sorry we are.

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  • Phil
    September 16, 2009

    So many thoughts. Is this an apology on the behalf of the whole church? Can you apologise for the actions of others? Or is it a personal apology?
    If this is a ‘marketing tactic’ (and I really hate to use that term here) I think that there is a huge problem. You can only soften the gospel message to a point. As soon as you start to claim things like, “the wages of sin is death” people are going to accuse you of being judgemental. Yes you can present it in a softer and friendlier way and not try to guilt people into heaven, but the core message of Christianity, that we need a saviour, is not a popular message.

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  • Paul Wilkinson (Canada)
    September 16, 2009

    Many of the affected are left feeling incredibly alone until they find one of these apologies and then they realize that they are not alone and that they possibly didn’t do anything to deserve the hurt they experienced.
    If you think it’s a fad, then let it run its course.

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  • Sean Salter
    September 17, 2009

    Everyday abusive parents, husbands, people apologize for their abuse to wake up the next day, week, month, or year and do it all over again.
    Change. Then we’ll talk.

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