From early childhood, we're taught to say we're sorry. When wrong, we're
to openly admit it. Now, I have seen children who say they are sorry (when
forced to), yet still have that look of victory in their eyes. Why is this? Saying
we're sorry doesn't always mean a change of heart. The look of victory in
that child's eyes, may very likely be because they still got their way. That's
all they wanted, and to say, "sorry" after, isn't all that high a price. These
children grow up to become us, and still see it as quite a bargain to getting
our own way. We still reason, "A simple word of apology and it will get them
off my back. I can live for myself and they have to accept my 'sorry'. What a
Now it's time to learn that "sorry" before God has only one kind
For ease, I have adopted a grading system of "sorrys". Let's start off with a definition of "sorry". Sorry is an abbreviated way of expressing
sorrow. When we say we're sorry, we mean we're filled with sorrow over what we've done. This is derived from repentance, where we see our evil,
acknowledge it, are appalled by it, are filled with sorrow for having done it, and so forsake doing it again. This is what "sorry" is
supposed to mean. Of course, it can be said with no intention of being anything more than a "get off my back" emergency escape clause.
Now for my grading system. This is a three level system: Class A Sorrow, Class B Sorrow and Class C Sorrow. With a little study, it's quite
easy to identify a "sorry" as to its proper classification. Let's take this system in the reverse order.
CLASS C SORROW
You've just chewed someone out for something they did wrong. They know it, and it can't be denied. Here comes that typical CLASS C
SORROW, "I know, that was dumb of me, I'm sorry." Sounds fine, doesn't it? They admitted their error and apologized. Let's take a closer look to
see exactly how we have a CLASS C SORROW here.
A typical addition to a CLASS C, is excuse. The CLASS C'er almost always has to tag on the excuse. This helps to shift the blame. It can be
either a "devil made me do it" or a "I would have done differently if only the circumstances were different." This helps relieve any guilt while still
giving the obligatory "sorry". Look for this in a CLASS C'er.
The dead-ringer to a CLASS C is the lack of change. This is something that always happens with this class. If someone says, "sorry", and turns
around and does the very same thing the next time, you know they were never repentant. Saying this will naturally call to mind what the Lord said
21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother
sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22 Jesus saith unto him,
I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
Jesus was giving a parable here which continues through verse 35. The parable gives the context of the above 2 verses. We'll look more at this
issue shortly. Suffice it here that Jesus' point wasn't that all sorrys are equal, (Luke 17:3,4 will expound on this) but that a true repentance must
always be accepted. The law counts, but grace is boundless. A sin that's repeated this often, and apologized for, can be real, but usually isn't.
The true sorrow, even though it be frequent, will come in a genuinly humble spirit. It'll never be nonchalant. The truly repentant person is humbled.
It won't only be uttered as an obligation. When you encounter this frequent apologizer who's sincere, you shouldn't have trouble recognizing the
spirit in which it comes.
Another type of CLASS C, is the keeping of accounts. A person says something like, "I'm sorry I got angry at you. If you hadn't wronged me, I
wouldn't have lost my temper, but it happened, so I'm sorry." This isn't repentance, it's saying, "I did this because of something you did to me.
You acknowledge what you did was wrong, and I'll acknowledge what I did, and then forget about it." True sorrow doesn't require the other person
acknowledge, or even be reminded of some offense they committed. This is a worthless apology. Sorry in and of itself is nothing, only true
repentance is the sorry of real value.
I've seen CLASS Cs that are acts of wickedness. On more that one occasion, I've actually witnessed an apology that goes something like, "I
forgive you and I'm sorry for what I did. I'm clear now. You have to forgive me or the guilt lays in your hands. I'm right before God now, so if any
evil remains, it's yours." For those of you who've actually used this, you may wonder, "What on earth is wrong with that?" My answer is, "Plenty!" It
starts with the keeping of accounts previously mentioned. Proceeding further, it smells of self-righteous arrogance. This sorry starts by pointing
the finger of blame at the person addressed and speaking it in a holier than thou attitude, starting off with "I forgive". "This day I review the crimes
you committed against me and I pardon your acts." Then the speaker proceeds to use this magnanimous sounding action as a basis for forcing
the other person to forgive his wrong. He tries a sort of blackmail, using God as his pawn. This isn't the "sorry" of repentance at all, it's actually an
attempt to humiliate the other person and appear justified in the process. This "I forgive you" that prefaced this apology, is wrong all the way
3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke
him; and if he repent, forgive him. 4 And if he trespass against thee seven
times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent;
thou shalt forgive him. Luke 17:3,4
Jesus said that if a brother repents, then we're to forgive him. Jesus also said we're to forgive as we're forgiven. How are we forgiven?
We're forgiven when we repent. If we were to forgive without repentance, that would be the same as saying God forgives everybody on earth,
whether or not they repent. This just isn't the case. Consider these verses:
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Matthew
14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will
also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will
your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14,15
17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if
he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and
a publican. Matthew 18:17
(Consider also Leviticus 19:17,18; Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians ch. 5; Galatians 6:1,2; 2 Thessalonians 3:6,14,15; 2 Timothy 4:14,15; Titus 3:10
- these further expound on the area of forgiveness.)
From Matthew 18:17, we see there are some we're not to forgive. Withholding forgiveness doesn't mean being filled with hate and bitterness.
Forgiving's a legal matter, not how we feel about something or someone.
Tying what we've seen to the "apology" under view, we see this "I forgive you" can't possibly come, unless the persons repented. This "apology",
which carries in it a condemnation of the person apologized to, doesn't always condemn any real sin. It doesn't address the brother fairly or
morally. Saying you're 'forgiving' in that manner, you're condemning the other person without so much as the fairness the Roman Empire
bestowed upon its citizens.
In the Roman Empire, if a person was accused of a crime, he had the right to hear the accusation brought against him, he had the right to face
his accusers and to defend himself. The offered, "I forgive" doesn't allow the accused the right of hearing the details of the crime he's accused of,
nor does it give him the right to defend himself. It says, without trial, YOU ARE GUILTY AS JUDGED! but I pardon you. The utterer of such a
wicked "apology" has the audacity to finish up with "I'm right before God now, so if any evil remains, it's yours." This kind of apology is definitely a
With a CLASS C, you have a person who says "sorry" because it's obvious they did wrong. By saying this, they hope to get either your approval
and/or get you off their back. They continue to behave the same way as before, and say "sorry" when exposed. Also, look for the excuse! If you
look closely at the excuse, you'll probably find some lies hidden there.
The CLASS C is wicked and worthless. Such a "sorry" is better left unsaid altogether. It's a lie.
There's a Biblical example of a CLASS C'er found in Jeremiah. A lot of people fell in with this group. Take a look at the passage: Jeremiah 34:8-
These people saw their evil, made a public show of their sorrow and vowed to reform. As soon as they were out of the lime light, they followed up
with a "who cares" behavior. This was followed with a "God cares" decree of final judgment. His condemnation was great and final! God doesn't
cotton too well to CLASS C'ers!
CLASS B SORROW
This could also be termed the "Judas Sorrow". Judas Iscariot displayed this when he betrayed Jesus. He was smitten with sorrow. He went to the
high priests and threw the silver pieces down and went and hanged himself (Matthew 27:3-5).
We also find this sorrow described in 2 Corinthians:
8 For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I
did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry,
though it were but for a season. 9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made
sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a
godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. 10 For godly
sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the
sorrow of the world worketh death. 11 For behold this selfsame thing, that
ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea,
what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea,
what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye
have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter. 2 Corinthians
This passage gives a detailed account of sorrow. The CLASS B SORROW is specifically shown as the sorrow of the world.
From these two passages, we can see CLASS B is the worldly sorrow. Yes, there is real sorrow found here. This sorrows to despair and not to
hope. It brings no fruit to life or repentance. It may result in quitting a bad behavior, but the guilt for the original crime remains. The conscience
can only be cleansed by the application of the blood of Christ:
14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the
eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience
from dead works to serve the living God? Hebrews 9:14
22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,
having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies
washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:22 (Eph. 5:26)
With worldly sorrow, the conscience isn't purified. The blood of Christ isn't applied and it results in
We're aware of the Judas example, but there's also another slightly different type. This other kind afflicts a great percentage of humanity. Man
senses his guilt before God, and tries to appease Him. Man starts working to outweigh the good over the bad. Buddhism and Hinduism illustrate
this. They try and do good to hopefully make up for the bad. As I said, the guilt remains without cleansing by Christ's atoning blood. The end
results in hell.
A big difference between this sorrow and a CLASS C'er, is that this isn't a lie. The individual is sorry, it's not uttered in deceit. The failure in it's
attaining to the only acceptable CLASS A SORROW is in looking at self, instead of abandoning all on God. This leads us up to the good and
CLASS A SORROW
The CLASS A SORROW is easy to identify. It leaves no troubling sense, in the heart of the one apologized to, that something isn't quite right.
Strange as it may sound, this is a joyful sorrow. The person who utters this "sorry" feels just as bad about the evil he's done, as he'd feel if the
evil was done to him. The law in our hearts quickly tells us if someone has done us wrong, and what's an appropriate punishment. Let that same
law condemn our actions and let us abhor it just as much.
The joyful aspect that I mentioned, comes from a covering by Christ's blood of that evil. Being truly forsaken, it's forgiven. The passage quoted
above, in 2 Corinthians 7:8-11, also illustrated the CLASS A SORROW. From that passage, we see this sorrow that becomes true repentance. It
causes us to proceed with great caution, realizing our corrupt nature and tendency to deceive ourselves. It also causes us to carefully examine
ourselves and condemn any evil unmercifully. We'll have the fear of God, but with the joyful hope of becoming free of the guilt and crime. From
this we proceed to a fervent heart, going forth as a warrior, to correct and get on the right track. This is the true CLASS A SORROW that we all
John the Baptist demanded this kind of sorrow. When some professional CLASS B & CLASS C'ers came to him, he spoke very sternly:
8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: 9 And think not
to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you,
that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 10 And
now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree
which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
We see the fruit must follow. The "sorry" isn't "repentance" unless you see the change in conduct. Repentance is the CLASS A SORROW. If the
change in conduct doesn't come, you can know the sorry is only CLASS C or at best CLASS B. A CLASS A will bear fruit, and that's how you can
identify it, according to John the Baptist.
Jesus expounded more on this in His illustration:
15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's
clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by
their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so
every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth
evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt
tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is
hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall
He said, "by their fruits ye shall know them." If they're really "sorry", they will bear fruit. There'll be the change in accord with their
confession. If the fruit continues as before, you know the repentance to change never really happened. You know the verbal confession of "sorry"
was a lower class level.
An important point, is that a CLASS A SORROW can degenerate into a lower class sorrow. In 2 Corinthian 2:4-11 we see this warning in the
statement, "for we are not ignorant of his (Satan's) devices." In this passage, we see a warning of slipping from an A into a B. We also find this
same possibility outlined in Galatians:
3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now
made perfect by the flesh? Galatians 3:3
The change from a CLASS A to a CLASS C was illustrated by Jesus in the parable of the sower in Mark 4:13-20, particularly verses 18-19.
We see that some received the Word, hence they became CLASS A SORROWERS. They believed and repented . . . . . for awhile. The world
was their undoing. They got caught up in the world's concerns and loves, so fell away. Their sorrow to repentance grew cold and slipped back into
lying, both to themselves and others. These become your typical "Pharisees". A hybrid. They don't want to face the reality that they're no longer
accepted with God, so deceive their own hearts. They also want to live for themselves, so find ways to do so while giving the appearance of still
following God. These love the world, while having their conscience nag them to get right with God. Their compromise pleases no one but
themselves (Luke 16:1-15).
The CLASS A SORROW is a narrow class. Even if you enter this class, you must be diligent to maintain your position. Most of the world is
CLASS B & C. Like I said earlier, the CLASS A is a joyful sorrow. It's the only group that can know true joy and peace. (John 14:27; Colossians
1:10,11). This group has sorrow to start, but is filled with God's true joy and peace as a result. True repentance frees us in Christ from
condemnation. Having forgiveness, there can at last be unfettered joy and peace. For the CLASS C SORROW, they think they get to keep their
joy by not really repenting. How great is their darkness! This is a hard, cold, joyless path. May we all flee it like the plague - which it is. Upgrade to
a CLASS A while you still can!