I am sorry.
There it is…those three little words. And contained within those three words is what a lot of people see as (at least part of) the solution to what ails our world, or what I like to call the second most important three-word phrase known to humanity.
You’ve probably noticed...we are seeing these three words popping up quite a bit lately. Political leaders are acknowledging past failures, hoping for support for future elections. Celebrities and hedge fund CEOs’ mistakes are being debated in the court of public opinion. And in every situation, people are saying, “I am sorry.”
The press and social media are turning up the heat, demanding people take ownership for wrongs they have done. And not only that, people are calling people out for things they think they might have done. Whether it’s sexual abuse, tax fraud, prostitution, election collusion, college admissions fraud or whatever else it might be, people are hyper-aware that well-known people are not, and will never be, perfect. And at the end of the day, people want to hear, “I am sorry.”
But here’s the thing.
I am sorry too.
With each passing year, I become more and more aware of the mistakes I made in my past. Not that I’m perfect now, but things I did in high school, college, my 20s or even in my 30s, cause my 43-year-old self to hang my head in disbelief. I did what? I said what? I believed what?
Even now, as a husband to an amazing bride for fifteen years, I have failed (and continue to fail) in innumerable and spectacular ways! As a parent of three amazing kids, I realize that I, like all parents, have a laundry list of moments I wish I could take back and do over. And let’s not forget my job, where as a pastor and leader, I make a ton of mistakes too.
Even writing all that is a bit disconcerting. And we haven’t even gotten into specifics.
As I think about all of these situations where we are confronted with human failings every day, I step back and look at myself and think, “I have failed too. Not in the exact same ways as others...but in my own unique ways I’ve been just as wrong as they are.”
And failure is not only the bad things we choose to do, but also the good things we don’t do. Wow! Way to add insult to injury.
So I am sorry. I have failed too.
But we’ve all got stuff in our past, don’t we? I like to say it this way: none of us have lived the life that we could have, if we would’ve made the right choices every time. And none of us have helped other people as much as we could have if we would’ve done things differently.
In the middle of all of the discussions and rhetoric, I’m afraid it’s just a huge adventure in missing the point.
Why? Because when did saying sorry ever really fix anything? Sure, let’s take ownership of our issues...but if all we ever do is say we’re sorry, then our whole world is still stuck in the same cycle. Apologizing never really gets at a lasting solution, does it?
The answer is right under our noses if we just look up. It’s all so simple, but I don’t see anyone saying it. So I need to say it…
That’s why Easter is so important.
Not what you would expect the answer to be, would you? But contrary to popular opinion, Easter has actually never been about bunnies, marshmallow baby chickens or seasonal chocolate. (Although, let’s be real, I love ALL of those things, and I am grateful when Easter candy shows up in the aisles of the grocery store)!
But in reality, Easter is all about God’s way of dealing with us being our own biggest problem. It’s God addressing all the failures of humanity. However any one of us is letting other people down and making choices we shouldn’t, God knows each one of us better than we know ourselves.
Isn’t that amazing? God knows all your fears, struggles and failures. He sees all of us clearly, and he loves us without limitation.
And here’s the best part…
God isn’t shocked when he learns you’re flawed. God loves broken people! He sees each of us as we truly are: a beloved paradox. It’s not just political leaders and celebrities who have problems. We are simultaneously both extraordinary and treacherous. Humans have an infinite capacity for beauty and for brokenness. In the same day, we are capable of the most amazing acts of selflessness and surprisingly hurtful acts of selfishness.
And Easter is a way better “solution” to our brokenness than “sorry” is because God sent Jesus on a rescue mission to save all of us from...ourselves. That’s what Easter is truly all about! We are the problem, but God has the solution. Easter is about God seeing our failures for what they are -- failures -- and then offering forgiveness and restoration.
Jesus’ work on the cross, and the empty tomb that followed, shouts out the reality that when we take ownership for our mistakes, God’s forgiveness meets us right there. The cross shows that our failures deserve God’s punishment (and his justice dictates that). And the resurrection – what we will celebrate this Easter – shows that our failures are forgivable.
And it doesn’t end there. It’s only the beginning! Remember how I told you “I am sorry” is the second most important three-word phrase in the history of humanity? Do you know what the most important one is?
I love you.
Easter clearly spells out to the world that God loves us, in spite of who we are and anything we’ve done. Just like when we look up and see the unending sky above us, God’s love covers everything in our lives. And his love brings unlimited redemption, forgiveness and hope.
We all need to say, “I am sorry.”
And when we say “I am sorry,” God says, “I love you and forgive you.”
That is why Easter is so absolutely important to all of us.
So let’s do this: as a society, and especially if we follow Jesus, we need to put the reality of Easter back into the center of our lives. The story of our lives can literally be a mouthpiece for the forgiveness and love of God to speak to the world! God’s love not only redeems us...he also wants to redeem others who are just like us: flawed but potentially forgiven.
And we can only imagine what that world would look like.
**Daniel Fusco is the lead pastor of Crossroads Community Church in Vancouver, WA. He's a featured contributor to "Preaching Today." His two books, Ahead of the Curve, and Honestly: Getting Real About Jesus and Our Messy Lives are available on Amazon.com. You can follow him at danielfusco.com.