Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 119:73-80; 145, Jeremiah 7:1-15, Romans 4:1-12, John 7:14-36
Have you ever tried to apologize by telling someone: “I love you?” Has anyone ever tried that with you? It’s a terrible way to end a dispute, because it resolves nothing. “I love you” is not an apology. It is not an admission of guilt. It is not a promise to change one’s ways. At best it is an attempt to appease someone by exploiting their emotional vulnerability in order to avoid conflict. “I love you” may precede or follow an apology; it does not replace it. Trying to do so is merely lip service.
The prophet Jeremiah addresses the Israelites about how they have been paying spiritual lip service to God. They have been profaning the Lord’s name and committing all kinds of crimes and sin, but on the Sabbath they enter the temple and proclaim “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.” Like a lover who has had enough of hearing all the right words but observing all the wrong deeds, the Lord declares the words deceptive. They are not sincere enough to wipe clean the offenses of a people who utter faithful words to cover their bases, but live otherwise unfaithful lives.
Love, whether of God or of a person, requires sincerity. When we betray that relationship repeatedly, declarations of “I love you” or “This is the temple of the Lord” do nothing but undermine and cheapen the meaning of those words. They are like pretty paper wrapped around a gift of yesterday’s moldering trash. Eventually the contents leak through and the paper itself is fouled by contamination; the pretty words become an ugly stench. Only when we have demonstrably repented – when we no longer try to excuse our wrongdoing with hollow sentiment – can we expect the relationship to mend. Over time we have to rebuild the trust that our words reflect the state of our heart.
Actions really do speak louder than words. If the only proof of our love and devotion is a bouquet of desperate words which have already begun to stink, we must repent until words are unnecessary.
Comfort: God’s love for you does not change.
Challenge: When you apologize, mean it.
Prayer: My God, I am heartily sorry for all my sins. Amen.
Discussion: What is the worst or best apology you’ve received or given?
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