“Tell your sister you are sorry.”
I scowled at my younger sister and mumbled, “Sorry.” My mother skeptically looked at me and said, “Do you mean it?”
“Yes.” I said, not changing my expression.
I was being scolded for teasing my sister. For much of our childhood, I was the mean-spirited older brother who found delight in making my sister cry. Although I was confessing to my mother that I was sorry, it was a hollow apology. I only apologized because I was being forced. I was remorseful only when the punishment led to some of my privileges taken away, like my allowance being withheld, or being grounded. Remorse, yes, but not truly repentant and seeking forgiveness.
Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.
Matthew 27:3-5 (ESV)
Judas felt remorse when he saw the results of his betrayal of his Master. It tortured his soul to the point that he committed suicide. Some pundits and critics of the Bible attempt to make the apologists’ point that Judas should have been forgiven by God because he was remorseful. Remorse is not a confession or repentance of sin. It is an acknowledgment of bitter feelings but not a willingness to change and seek forgiveness.
It was not until we were both adults did I reconcile with my sister and I deeply apologized to her for my repeated cruelty to her. She forgave me and we are now very close but it was only because of a genuine desire to repent and turn away from my wicked ways. We all have experienced remorse but to truly repent, change our behavior, and seek forgiveness is much deeper and profound.
Our spiritual lives are no different. When we are seeking forgiveness for our sins, remorse alone is not enough. To truly experience forgiveness, we must confess and repent and turn from our sins and accept Jesus Christ to be our Lord and Savior. Only when I realized that my sin was not only against my sister but an affront to God, was I able to come before Him with a contrite spirit and seek forgiveness. Thanks be to God that He was faithful and just to accept my confession and grant me forgiveness.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.