April 28, 2007
In the Christian understanding, apology and repentance are two different concepts.
Apology merely means expressing regret or explanation, which could be for something as minor as a misunderstanding; repentance, on the other hand, is a response to an acknowledged sin and means a total change of attitude. The word in Greek is metanoia, that is, a change of mind, a new way of seeing things. This is not only acknowledging a wrong, but promising to change in the future.
For the Christian, forgiveness is an unconditional requirement -- turn the other cheek, forgive your enemies, etc. But for there to be genuine reconciliation, repentance is necessary. If the person who has wronged you or wronged others is sincerely willing to transform his behavior in the future, then there can be a genuine and lasting healing.
What we see on the part of most politicians today is apology. What would provide real benefit to our national well-being is if people could genuinely repent, that is, express sorrow for sin and pledge not to behave that way in the future. That would have a life- and culture-changing effect.
In 31 years working in the prisons, I have seen the most amazing reconciliation between, for example, a mother whose daughter was murdered and that daughter’s murderer. This is the path to true peace among peoples, something which I have seen the Gospel achieve hundreds upon hundreds of times.
This article was taken from Mr Colson's column in the Washington Post.