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Lent: The Power of "I'm Sorry"

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This Lenten Season spurs us to a time of penance and repentance. We are pushed to think of our own faults and the need to say "I'm sorry" for whatever we have done. There is something powerful about saying "I'm sorry." Lent forces us to come to grips with the need to both give and receive apologies. It challenges us to say, "My bad." This time of year compels us to admit "It's my fault" or "I was wrong." A simple apology from the heart can bring restoration from a situation of death and dismay. Imagine what would happen if someone said "I'm sorry" for killing a hoodie-wearing teenage whose only weapons were candy and a drink. The dynamics of the conversation over Trayvon Martin would surely change if someone apologized for what was done on purpose or accidentally.

In the Gospel of Luke (7:36-50) there is a woman who epitomizes what it means to admit a fault and seek forgiveness. While many preach and teach that the focus of the text is the fact that the woman is a "sinner," they miss the point. The issue is not the woman's sin, but that she seeks forgiveness for her sin. She makes a "my bad" move.

Jesus is at the home of Simon the Pharisee having a meal with a group of men . Simon is religious leader, a Jewish leader who knows the Jewish law. He knows what the laws says is right. He knows what the law says is wrong. Simon, because he has studied, knows what is good and bad behavior. So if anyone could identify sin or someone who has committed sin, surely it would be Simon the Pharisee.

Thus when a woman shows up uninvited to his house, to his dinner with Jesus, then surely this woman must be a sinner. Since she dares to come in closed room full of men, she must a sexual sinner. She must be a harlot, a prostitute, a bad girl. Right? Wrong!

On the contrary, there is nothing in the text that says this woman is a harlot. Luke does not asseverate that this woman has had many husbands or committed adultery. The writer only maintains that she is a "sinner." The word is "amartolos -- in Greek." Literally the woman has "missed the mark." Haven't we all missed the mark? Who hasn't done something against the societal norm? Luke uses this word "amartolos" 17 times in this Gospel. He calls Peter a sinner in chapter 5; the prodigal son sins in chapter 15; and Zacchaeus is a sinner in chapter 19. However, none of these men are assumed to be sexual deviants. None get labeled promiscuous. Yet, preachers and teachers, dare to label this woman, who intrudes on a house party, a harlot. Luke merely says that she is just a sinner; she is just someone who missed the mark.

This "sinner" woman's main priority was to get to Jesus so she could repent for whatever she had done. It did not matter where she was, for she was in someone's else house attending to her own personal affairs. It did not matter who was watching her. The host and his guests were looking at her and murmuring to themselves about her. Yet, she was more concerned about the presence of Jesus. It did not matter to this woman what she needed to do. Crying profusely, she went to Jesus and wiped his dirty feet with her hair to clean her soul. She kissed the feet of Jesus and poured expensive oil on them. This "sinner" woman washed his feet, that in turn he could wash away her sin. She did all of this just to say "I'm sorry."

We live in a world where people think saying "I'm sorry" is weak. Some think that apologizing shows a lack of manhood or is the sign of a weak woman. Others argue that there is no need to tell God "I'm sorry," because God knows what we have done. People refuse even to say "I'm sorry." Instead they offer a perfunctory "sorry." Well it is the sorry person who will not say "I'm sorry."

Just think of how many relationships could be restored, the number of marriages saved, the amount of hurts that could be healed, the wars that could be prevented, if we only apologized. This season of Lent calls us to reflect on these things. Imagine if someone that rainy day in that gated community in Sanford, FL had just said, "I am sorry."