Saying “I’m sorry” is something anyone can do. Sorry doesn’t require change, only an acknowledgement that you messed up. Sorry is a way out of a problem, not the beginning of a new path. Sorry doesn’t require the power of God. If you will forgive the pun, “I’m sorry” is a sorry pretender to the biblical response “I repent” when sin is committed.
The Holy Spirit makes this sharp distinction between repentance and its worldly alternatives. It is the difference between life and death. Note well the wonderful promise of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 7:10:
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
One reason that the presentation of the gospel is absent in parenting is because calling for repentance is not a common part of parents’ day-to-day conversations with their children.
Repentance means that you acknowledge how you have sinned against someone, that forgiveness for sin is sought, and a commitment is made to turn things around and pursue a path righteousness. This turn around can only be accomplished by the power of the gospel. Simply saying “I’m sorry” allows that a problem exists, but does nothing to bring about a genuine change of heart.
If your child is repentant there will be sorrow, but it doesn’t end there. Godly sorrow brings repentance which leads to salvation. Then, once this happens, regret is left behind. This is what it means to be set free from your sins. You and your children no longer have to be burdened by the regret of sinful failures!
Instead of saying “I’m sorry” teach your children to say:
“I repent of being angry at you. Please forgive me. I am truly sorry I hurt you. By God’s grace I will be kind to you instead of being angry. Please pray for me that I will change.”
“I’m sorry” is only a bandaid that hides a fatal infection. Repentance wipes out the deadly residue of sin and brings the life giving power of Jesus Christ into the lives of you and your children.
Here is a prayer for repentance that will practically help you teach your children what biblical repentance looks like. This prayer is found in “Get Wisdom!” by Ruth Younts.
God, thank you for making repentance possible by sending Jesus to live and die in my place. Thank you that my sin doesn’t separate me from your love. But still, sometimes it is hard to repent, especially when I am stubborn and angry and I just want my own way. Please give me a repentant heart and help me to love you more. In Jesus name, Amen.