As young parents, my husband and I were not particularly intentional about raising our children. I’d like to think it was because we were pretty young, but it was more likely due to our preoccupation with surviving. Subconsciously, we both wanted our children to be respectful, polite, and empathetic. While I’m happy to say these traits are prominent in our son and daughter today, I’m not so sure it was from our great parenting skills, as much as it was from the grace of God.
[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]It is an exercise in humility and unselfishness.[/pullquote]When my son was little, he would often do boy things, like hitting his sister or cousins. I would say to him, “You need to say you’re sorry.”
He would say, offhandedly, “I’m sorry.”
Sighing, I would say, “Now say it like you mean it.”
“I’mmm sorrrry.” He would respond in his best remorseful voice.
Geesh. We all knew he didn’t mean it.
As I thought about the word of the month being forgiveness, this little story kept popping into my head. Rather than focus on the idea of God forgiving me, or my call to forgive others, I thought about the need to be forgiven by those whom I may have sinned against in some way.
And despite this little story, don’t you think that “I’m sorry” is one of the most powerful statements in the world?
Sure, sometimes “I’m sorry” can become a broken record in people. There are times when I bump into someone unintentionally and murmur an “I’m sorry” to them as we pass each other. I am quite sorry, I didn’t mean to bang into them, but the apology really takes no effort on my part. I barely have to look the person in the eye, and I quickly forget the encounter.
However, in a relationship the words, “I’m sorry” can be a game changer.
When I have to say “I’m sorry”, it is saying I value the person, and want to put nothing in the way of the relationship whether it be with a spouse, another family member, a friend, or co-worker.
I’m not saying it’s an easy thing to admit my wrongs. Saying “I’m sorry” means I have been confronted with my selfishness, sinfulness, or other lacks in my personality. I have a choice of ignoring these things and watch the relationship suffer, or address them and watch the relationship soar.
But I don’t ever want it to be easy.
The offended person could certainly reject the apology and refuse to forgive us. Admitting offense puts us into a vulnerable place. We come face to face with our shortcomings, and must confess we have done something wrong. It is an exercise in humility and unselfishness.
But we may also experience the most beautiful blessing we could ever imagine: The restoration of a relationship.
“I’m sorry” is the key ingredient for breaking down the barriers of hurt, anger, and all the emotions that go along with broken fellowship.
And I believe this act of repentance and restoration are immensely pleasing to God.
While this verse is taken out of context, I think it reflects a principle within the Bible of God’s delight in our efforts towards making things right. Even though these words are written by Paul, I can imagine God saying them:
“…yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret…” ~ 2 Corinthians 7:9-10a
While we as Christians live in the balance of two kingdoms, we often lose sight of those things that are kingdom values. In this world of me, me, me, the writers of the Bible often write of others, others, others. Kingdom values include the idea of peace, forgiveness, and an active acknowledgement of how we fail in these areas. Being able to say “I’m sorry” goes a long way in promoting the principles of the Kingdom of God within our earthly world. We become peace promotor’s. In this acknowledgment of our wrongs, we can model to the world an authentic way of life that leads to forgiveness and to the possibility of the restoration of fellowship. In turn, it will hopefully lead to the unity, so often called for, by Paul.
And remember: God is in the forgiveness business.
The Bible has much to say about our relationships with others and how they reflect on our relationship with God. Here are just a few to meditate on:
Be kind to each other, sympathetic, forgiving each other as God has forgiven you through Christ. ~ Ephesians 4:32
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. ~ James 5:16
Therefore, let’s keep on pursuing those things that bring peace and that lead to building up one another. ~ Romans 14:19
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. ~ Hebrews 12:14
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. ~ Matthew 6:14-15