The First Step
Again, though I say to the wicked, “You shall surely die,” yet if they turn from their sin and do what is lawful and right—if the wicked restore the pledge, give back what they have taken by robbery, and walk in the statutes of life, committing no iniquity—they shall surely live, they shall not die. None of the sins they have committed shall be remembered against them. – Ezekiel 33:14-16 (NRSV)
Daniel Tiger knows about little kids, being one himself. He knows that once they learn to say “I’m sorry” after messing up and hurting someone, sometimes they think that should be the end of it. “I’m sorry!” they yell louder and louder at you, getting more and more angry that the magic words haven’t taken away the feelings their original behavior gave you.
Daniel has a song he sings to help other kids learn what to do in this situation. “Saying ‘I’m sorry’ is the first step, then ‘How can I help?”, he sings over, and over, and over until some of us feel like doing something we’ll need to apologize for later.
What Daniel knows in Pre-K, Ezekiel has been trying to teach adults since forever. An apology is not enough. You have to try to fix what you broke. “I’m sorry” is only the first step; reparations are the second. And not the reparations you think the other person deserves; the reparations they say they deserve.
Restore the pledge, give back what you have taken, amend your ways, and then your sins will not be remembered against you, says Ezekiel. “How can I help?” says Daniel. Either way, your apology is only the beginning.
For prophets who teach the truth in every age, thank you. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is Chaplain of the Protestant Cooperative Ministry at Cornell University. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.