Contrition

I have watched most of the special hearings about the January 6th Insurrection, and the level of vile behavior and planning prior to that day has been shocking. The attempt to take the Capitol building and hang the Vice President (among so many other crimes) wasn’t random, and it wasn’t a bunch of yahoos misbehaving. Many of the people involved committed treason; they were prepared to kill for their cause. Many, but not all. Yesterday’s hearing gave us insight into one man (Stephen Ayres) who really did get caught up in it. He pled guilty to two charges and showed remorse for the way he behaved. He loves his family and loves his country and he believed his cause was right. Until he saw the truth.

After he was done with his testimony, he went up to three of the Capitol police who were involved in protecting our country that day. It was obvious that he was trying to apologize, and while the reception he received was subdued, his intent was clear. He could have slunk away in shame; he could have headed in a different direction. He didn’t; he wanted to make contrition. Contrition isn’t just doing the time for your crime; it is the act of showing sorrow and remorse. It doesn’t take away the sin or the damage that was done, but it is a public way of admitting you were wrong. My heart broke for this man, caught up in the Big Lie, but even more so for the police who so bravely tried to hold the wolves at bay. Nobody won that day, and a lot of people lost. We are still losing.

Confession – Contrition – Repentance. These are not archaic concepts that only belong in church; they are life skills that we should teach our children. It is easy to admit to doing wrong once you’ve been caught, but too many people leave it there. They don’t show remorse, and they don’t make up for what they’ve done. Going to prison for a crime isn’t contrition or repentance; it’s punishment. And it doesn’t matter how many times we apologize; we still need to do the time if we’ve done the crime. Acts of contrition and repentance don’t let you off the hook; they do quite the opposite. True repentance accepts justice; true repentance tries to right the wrongs committed. Mr. Ayre’s attempt to apologize was a moment of awkward grace. Most apologies are. I hope those heroic officers can someday accept his apology; but even if they don’t, his admission showed his character. Being forgiven by the people he hurt isn’t necessary for him to confess, show remorse, and try to make up for his sins. That is out of his control. 

We could, as individuals and as a nation, benefit from confession, contrition, and repentance. We all could use more humility and grace. We all could benefit from being less strident and more understanding. The people involved in the insurrection will never live a day without the memory of the part they played, but they might be able to find solace if those who committed these crimes acted more like Mr. Ayres. Maybe then, forgiveness and healing can start.

Prayer – Holy God, we have all fallen short of Your desires for us, and we all need to change. Give us the courage to be better, and the strength to forgive. Amen.

Today’s art is called “Insurrection” by Dale Jorgensen.

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