At the 2000 Sydney Olympics Closing ceremony one of my all time favourite bands, Midnight Oil, came out and played their biggest hit “Beds are Burning.” What was curious about their performance to millions of people around the world was what they were wearing. Black pyjamas with “SORRY” emblazoned on the front of them in bold white.
For most people around the world, it really didn’t mean anything, but to Australians it was a glaring message. For years the Australian government felt no need to apologise for the way Australian Aborigines had been treated. Beginning with the arrival of the first fleet in 1788 when the white migrants began shooting the “black fella” for sport. To the “Stolen Generations” in which the Australian Government, with the support of church missions, removed the children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent from their families. To the “White Australia” policies of the 1950s and 60s. To the continued issues around racial discrimination and abuse. Finally in 2008 the Australian government issued a formal apology.
In 1979 Air New Zealand flight 901 crashed on the slopes of Mount Erebus in Antarctica killing 257 people. For years Air New Zealand and the New Zealand Government blamed Captain Jim Collins, even when a Royal Commission of Inquiry exonerated Captain Collins and put the blame squarely on Air New Zealand. Air New Zealand were accused by Justice Mahon of the Royal Commission of “presenting an orchestrated litany of lies” to discredit Captain Collins.
The New Zealand Government for 20 years refused to table the Royal Commission of Inquiry. Justice Mahon’s report was finally tabled in Parliament by the then Minister of Transport, Maurice Williamson, in 1999. 30 years after the DC-10 crashed on the slopes of Mt. Erebus, Air New Zealand finally apologised for it’s role following the incident and to all those affected who did not receive appropriate support and compassion from the company, including Captain Collin’s wife and children, and unveiled a commemorative sculpture at its headquarters.
Why are we so stubborn about apologising? Why do we feel the need to dig our heels in and stubbornly remain rigid against repentance when we have wronged those around us?
Micah 6:8 says:
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
To act justly meant not only to act in a manner that is just, but also speak out when an injustice was left unchecked, regardless of the situation. Acting justly spurs us to love more consciously, which in turns allows us to walk humbly with God.
We, as the Church, can do better than our governments. There is nothing more that can dampen a charged situation when the words “sorry” are uttered. Jesus needs to be our example, not those in government.