My friend Jen recently posted this video on Facebook, and I found it fairly thought-provoking. Highland Christian Church apologizes, in the spirit of Luther’s 95 theses.
I had a few thoughts. First, it seems to me you really can’t apologize for someone else. When you’re hurt by someone, it doesn’t help for their spouse or another friend or family member to come to you and say, “I’m sorry she hurt you. She didn’t mean it.” They can’t apologize for a wound they didn’t inflict. They can be encouraging and comforting, and I believe that’s probably a goal of this video. But we have to be careful – apologizing for other Christians can be a subtle form of judging them, which only fosters the very divisiveness we apologize for.
Secondly, I think we have to be careful of judging other believers’ hearts and motives simply because we disagree with or are embarrassed by them. Televangelists, for example, may be real believers who’ve simply been distracted by wealth and consumerism. (And so have a lot of us.) Yet we want to distance ourselves from them. What would be truly refreshing would be for us to embrace all the wackiness in our “family tree” – “Yes, we’re all Christians. We don’t all understand the Bible the same way. We don’t always get it right. I happen to disagree with their position on this issue, but I love and respect them as part of Christ’s body.” Christianity has survived 2,000 years in spite of its “fringe” adherents because of Christ, not because we identify who’s doing it right, and who’s doing it wrong.
And lastly, the vague use of “we” inadvertently minimizes the message. Rather than the vagueness of apologizing for “wasting resources consuming,” imagine if a real person, identified by name apologized specifically. “I’m sorry I forgot my true identity as a believer, and spent $5000 on a big screen TV, while my neighbors across the street can’t buy clothes for their kids.” Ouch. That hurts… and it means something. But who would do it? Anyone? And if not, are we really sorry? Generalities are easy. Apologizing for other people is easy. Real people taking personal responsibility for real actions – that’s how repentance works.
What do you think?
4 thoughts on “christian apologies”
I must be getting old; this kind of thing has never resonated with me. It reminds me of the confession booth that author Don Miller set up on a college campus; people entered the booth and heard “confessions” of the church’s sins from the past 2000 years. Really? It’s kinda like the folks who want to apologize for slavery or mistreatment of Native Americans – I don’t mean to downplay the atrocities, but they occurred over 100 years ago! I don’t understand how you can apologize or ask forgiveness for a sin that you did not personally commit (okay, Jesus and Stephen did it, but still…). The video seems very negative. To me, it smacks of the typical post-modern Christian mantra: “The church sucks. There, we said it. Will you like us now?” I don’t get it.
i appreciate your thoughts, but i have to note something here: in his book, “Blue Like Jazz” Donald Miller DOES talk about setting up a sort of “reverse” confessional, and initially it begins as “let’s apologize for the historical sins of the church” but in the end, the point that he makes is that it wasn’t impacting until he began to apologize for his own sins. in other words, he came to realize that the way to break down barriers between himself and the non-christians he was speaking with, was to first admit that he had not lived up to what he himself claimed to believe. it is a difficult thing, trying to apologize for something that we may not have had anything to do with, and perhaps it is a pointless practice. however, when done in the same sort of spirit that Jim (below) refers to, it could be quite beneficial, both for the believer and the unbeliever.
WOW – I almost commented without watching the video, would have been a mistake. I’m now torn between two competing thoughts. 1. I agree with your theme and Mike’s comment, essentially that we can’t really extend forgiveness for what other’s have done, there does feel like some judgement and obviously criticism of the “church” without recognizing the incredible accomplishments inspite of its errors.
Second thought: Having a dialogue is one of the most important and effective means of sharing our faith. If asking for forgiveness is an act of humility and a confession that we’re going to try not to repeat the “sins” of the past, isn’t that a Christ like way of starting a discussion? Could the confession been more specific as Jan points out? – Sure! But if the goal is to initiate dialogue then I can sure think of a lot worse ways than by starting by asking for forgiveness.
My two cents…
Thanks Matt, for clarifying the confession booth thing. I had forgotten that part (it has been a few years since I read the book).
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