Apologies Meaningless Without Repentance

Chuck Colson
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.


  1. it's wonderfull when people still dream about utopias...

  2. Good post/article....apologies are easy to throw out there....change is harder.

  3. This is good Bob. I respect Charles Colson as much or more than any Christian spokesman/teacher in the present age.
    I would add something for thought. It's a truth that I have realized to some degree for years but only recently found a quote from Paul Tillich:
    "genuine forgiveness is participation, reunion overcoming the powers of estrangement. And only because this is so, does forgiveness make love possible. We cannot love unless we have accepted forgiveness, and the deeper our experience of forgiveness is, the greater is our love."
    Colson mentions a lady who forgave her daughter's killer. I believe he is talking about this kind of forgiveness - the kind that participates in the life of the forgiven, rubbing shoulders and walking on ground level with them.


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