Monday, February 11, 2013

An Apology Is Not Repentance

In the movie The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000) is the following conversation between Rannulph Junuh and Adele Invergordon.

Adele approaches Junuh and sits beside him on the bench, uncomfortably.

Junuh:  There something you wanted to tell me?

Adele:  Well, I'm trying to think of how to say it, Junuh.

       There is a purpose to this visit...
       ...and that's to apologize.

       I'm not an apologetic woman, it takes me longer to organize my thoughts.

       I want to seem properly contrite for having gotten you into this match...
       ...but not seem what I did was ill-intentioned, since it wasn't.

Junuh:  What exactly are you apologizing for?

Adele:  For publicly humiliating you.

Junuh:  That'd be a good thing to apologize for.

Adele:  However, I think that...

       Basically, what I'm trying to say is...

       ...that I'm sorry.

       But it's not my fault.

       You're the one to blame.

Junuh:   That's one hell of an apology, Adele.

Adele:  I'd stop the tournament in a flash, if I could. I truly, truly would.

       Because I know it's just gonna get worse.
       The way you're playing, you're destroying...
       ...any chance Jones and Hagen have of doing well.

       And your supporters? Every man, woman, and child in Savannah...
       ...are so demoralized that they can barely hold down their lunches.

       So, you want my apology or not?

Junuh:  No.

Adele:  Well...

       That's the Junuh I know. Just full of little surprises.

What was this?

Why did Adele even approach her estranged husband?

Years earlier poor Junuh was the sole survivor in a World War I battle.  He did not know how to face people after this.  He could not explain it for himself.  He was counted as a hero by everyone except himself.  He felt guilty for surviving.  So he returned to his hometown but not to his wife.  He was not able to forgive himself so as to face himself, so he could not be open to face her, either.

This was wrong.  She was deeply injured.  She suffered for over ten years because of his inability to face the circumstances of his life honestly.  He sought for answers without turning to the source of truth and goodness.  So he tried to hide from himself.  He could not do this while embracing his wife.  The marital union requires honesty.  All unity is completely dependent upon the Truth.  Junuh had turned his face, his heart, his soul away from the Truth.

Adele wanted to save her father’s legacy.  She wanted to save the golf course and fortune of her father.  She devised a grand plan to have a legendary tournament to initiate interest in the golf course.  So she coerced her husband to come forth and play in the tournament.  Her motives were mixed, but were selfish.  She thought only of what she wanted, even though deep down that included reconciliation with her husband.  But even this reconciliation she sought for selfish motives.

Eventually she confronted her husband with his sin against her.  He apologized sincerely.  He confessed his sin and asked forgiveness, which she initially refused to give.  But he repented nonetheless.  Eventually she did forgive him and rejoin him.  And he forgave her even though she never truly confessed her own sin against him.  But she did turn from her sin.  She stopped blaming him and hating him.  Though her confession was incomplete, she was turned again to love and true compassion for her husband, and he received her with no demands upon her.  Her confession and contrition were false, but she was nevertheless turned from this falseness back to the truth of their love.

The confrontation took place.  Both hearts were turned.  Forgiveness and healing and reconciliation resulted.  They began life together anew.

This story does not fully portray the life of the forgiveness that is in Christ, but it does demonstrate some of the important aspects.  The reconciliation that God works is far greater.  It is a one sided reconciliation in that God initiates it and fulfills it.  He is the innocent one, the one who has been wronged, and yet He willingly takes the blame and buries it with His own death.  He rises up and continually calls to us to confess our waywardness and to be reconciled to Him in His love.  Even though we are unable fully to confess our sin, He eagerly forgives us and restores us.  Even though we turn from the truth, He proclaims it openly and fully so that we are moved to believe it and be turned again to Him to receive His grace, mercy, and peace.

Like Junuh, we need to hear the good news that though we are lost, our place has been reserved for us.  When we finally hear this in faith, we are turned from our obstinate unbelief so that we gladly and humbly return to the one calling us back to His fatherly embrace.

Like Adele, though we are confused and angry, often not even knowing why we are angry, God’s continual call melts our stubbornness so that His love prevails and we are rejoined to Him in His Holy Communion.  Deep down that is what we want all along, but because we seek to be strong on our own we resist His loving call to return humbly to Him.  When we finally hear the truth that His love and His calling are the answer, when we finally are broken with the weariness of fighting to make things right in our lives by our own reason and strength, when we finally admit that we cannot do for ourselves what God graciously does freely for us, then we look up and see that the battle has already been won and the life is already restored for us.

I was moved to write this as my heart sought a way to address the fraudulence in the following video.  In this video the president of the LC-MS seeks to effect healing within his church body through a pretense of repentance.  In this and the letters at Pastoral Letters on the Newtown Tragedy no wrongdoing is ever actually confessed or addressed.

If one carefully observes both the video and the letters, both Adele and Junuh show forth in various ways.  There is hiding from the truth.  There is lack of open confrontation of wrongdoing.  There are false attempts at apologies that really are not apologies at all.

In the end this is much worse because there is no repentance, no forgiveness, no healing.

There is, however, a very subtle pointing of the finger of blame away from those who are in the middle of the conflict.  Very subtly the blame is placed upon those within the church body who are calling out for the leaders and pastors and congregations to turn from the pretense.  Those who are calling for the truth to be confessed and the hypocrisy to be abandoned are being told that they are unloving for not being willing to pretend that all is well.  Those seeking honest confession and absolution and a genuine turning from corruption of the truth are being told that they should turn a blind eye and be quiet for the sake of a pretense of unity and love.

This is not the way of true healing.  This is not the way of real unity.

It would be wonderful to see the leaders and people of this church body to realize this and to be turned to the Truth so that they may receive the healing that their hearts long to receive.  The problem remains for them that they serve their mammon and imagine that they can serve God also.  They continue to fight to preserve what they hold most dear, that is, their church body.

It would truly be a joyous day if like Adele they realized that saving the legacy of their fathers is not what matters.  Then they would walk away from their church body and be reunited in the union of the true faith.  Then they would truly be “synod” not through a corporate charter and a constitution and by-laws, but as those truly in the “together-way.”

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