You have likely heard of the Anthony Weiner scandal and his ensuing apology. A married man, Weiner “sexted” with several women until he posted a salacious photo intended for private viewing to his public Twitter account. Those who still doubt the utility of Twitter, take note. It now accounts for the loss of a shamed public servant.
With many others, I followed these developments with interest. I wanted to see how Weiner apologized. There have been a spate of these kind of men-behaving-badly fiascos and the inevitable apology often sounds like a remixed personal pep talk. ”I see now that I acted out of line with my personal convictions, and I am determined to do my very best to live up to all that my thousands of fans expect of me.” You hear this sort of shlock all the time.
As far as public confessions of shame by disgraced men go, this one was actually pretty good. Here’s a snippet:
I have exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years. For the most part, these relation– communications took place before my marriage, though some have sadly took place after.
To be clear, I have never met these any of these women or had physical relationships at any time. I haven’t told the truth, and I’ve done things I deeply regret.
I brought pain to people I care about the most and the people who believed in me, and for that I’m deeply sorry. I apologize to my wife and our families, as well as to our friends and supporters.
I’m deeply ashamed of my terrible judgment and actions.
Here’s the whole transcript.
As I said, this apology was solid–maybe a six out of ten. Of course, Weiner stopped short of giving his apology backbone. He has vowed to stay in office. An apology is not enough. Egregious actions should have serious consequences. It’s not sufficient to stand in front of some cameras and confess. Confession should bring contrition–expressed in the form of action like, say, resigning.
But that’s a matter for another message-board discussion. All of this hubbub had me thinking about apologies. Apologies are not just pro forma statements of contritive fact. They are utterances from the core of our being that we are in the wrong. Apologies are a form of common grace. In a world ruled by Satan, not by God, no one would apologize. Everyone would excuse their actions or ignore them. When we fail to apologize to our spouse or roommate or employer, we are picturing a little bit of a world order ruled by vicious principalities and powers.
But when, because we have been transformed by Christ, make regular apologies as we necessarily must, we are giving the world a glimpse of a much greater realm and a much greater king. We are, in fact, acting out the core of faith. To follow God is to say, at the core, “You are right and I am wrong.” That is the essence of conversion. The Holy Spirit births this kind of instinct in us at the moment when we are converted and he relentlessly and graciously animates that instinct in us whenever we say we are sorry, whether for lying about taking out the trash or ruining our marriage.
The gospel activates and propels numerous virtues–courage, self-awareness, humility, and more–but they nowhere cohere more beautifully than in a simple apology. The person who hates the gospel–and this is all of us naturally–may apologize, but does so from a heart that hates doing so. The Christian, on the other hand, recognizes that he or she is continually in the wrong and exposed as a sinner before a holy, majestic God. This produces a life of confession, of humility. Though it’s still difficult as a Christian to say, “I’m sorry,” there is a joy in doing so, for we are acting in distinctly Christocentric ways.
The next time we speak unkindly to our husband or wife; the next time we lust after someone who is not ours; the next time we self-justify our actions for the thousandth time; the next time we fail to care well for our children and leave them to flounder; the next time we act selfishly and do not care for the needy among us; in all of these instances, we can take joy in knowing that we are freed by grace to apologize. The gospel has come, and it has struck. We are transformed. Our sin resides, but grace is greater. We are no longer trapped in prisons of our delusional making that keep us thinking that we aren’t wrong–everyone else is! We are freed to live holy lives and when we do not to make atonement.
The reason we can do this? Because atonement has been made for us. May we show the world a better way. May we apologize freely and quickly, knowing that there is nothing more impressive and more God-given than this. Then, trusting in a sovereign God, we can take steps toward restitution, witnessing as we do to housewives, mechanics, college professors and shamed congressmen that there is a better world, a more perfect place, than the one we know.