Sorry is a powerful word, but only when used sincerely. See, we can easily say the words “I’m sorry” but they lose their power unless also accompanied by genuine remorse and new behaviours. And when the hurt has been great, it’s the person we’ve hurt who will most sense if our apology and remorse is from a genuine place or not. They’ll know because when an apology is genuine it will have included a time of listening, of knowing they have been heard as they share of their story and their pain. It will have involved a time of honest reflecting, of entering into the pain held by another and importantly of taking ownership of our part in their pain. And it will involve new behaviours, a commitment to learning from past wrongdoings and to relating in a new, better way. It’s only then that an apology can truly be genuine and true reconciliation can begin. “I’m so sorry” when it comes with this change is powerful indeed!
Last Wednesday was National Sorry Day. This week is National Reconciliation Week. These are important dates in our national calendar, for to see a better future for our indigenous neighbours we must give them a voice and a platform to share their pain and be truly heard. We must be humble listeners. And we must acknowledge our part in their pain, for we remain beneficiaries from the injustices done to them whether we would have desired those tragedies or not.
You know, as Christians we ought to be in the best place both to take ownership of the sinful actions done in our name against our indigenous neighbours, and at the same time hold onto the hope for healing and reconciliation in our future together. I say this because reconciliation is at the very heart of the gospel. Our God – the injured party – took the initiative to reconcile us to himself in Christ. And as reconciled ones, filled with God’s own Spirit, it is God who now calls us to be ministers of reconciliation in the world. As the God who delights to bring about reconciliation works in us, we are all called to go into the world as Christ’s ambassadors, carrying the message of reconciliation with us wherever we go. (Look at 2 Corinthians 5:11-21.) Yes, this ultimately means inviting people to be reconciled to God. But it doesn’t end there. Reconciliation with God fuels reconciliation with people too. We follow in the footsteps of God himself when we take up the call of reconciliation.
So, let’s be active in our listening to indigenous voices and let’s be committed to truth-telling when it comes to our shared history. (The common grace website is a great place to start (www.commongrace.org.au) if you are looking for resources to grow in your own understanding and to listen to indigenous voices.) And let’s continue to pray for deep healing, reconciliation and a renewed, grace-filled chapter in our story between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples.