“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24
I have a slight confession for you: saying I’m sorry isn’t something that comes easy for me. Have you ever had one of those moments that you know you have done something that offended or hurt a friend or family member? After you realize your offense there are usually two routes you might seem to take. One is that you just try to pretend like nothing happened and expect and hope that they will get over it and soon forget without you ever apologizing. The other is that you try to in a roundabout way begin to apologize. That apology usually includes a laundry list of reasons of why you did what you did that ended up hurting them. You work very hard at justifying your own actions while also trying to mend your offense.
Been there lately? I know I have. So often when my husband and I find ourselves in an argument because one of us has offended the other, it seems to take hours for anyone to finally say they are sorry; and if they do say it, it is always coupled with a lot of justifying. Recently I have come to a stark realization…God’s just not okay with that. There is a better way to say I’m sorry. It’s sincere and it’s genuine. It’s the type of I’m sorry that is believable and isn’t candy coated with all of our excuses. When was the last time you said an I’m sorry like that? When was the last time you just said with an overflowing heart, “I’m so sorry”? You didn’t justify it but you said it as soon as you knew you had hurt or offended and… you meant it.
I have realized that the biggest enemy to our sincere apology is pride. So often our need to be right can hinder our ability to apologize. Even when we deep down know that someone has been hurt as a result of our intentional or unintentional actions we will hold out on apologizing because of our own pride and desire to be right. On the other hand the greatest friend of our sincere apology is humility. Humility in an apology is when we decide that we value the other person and that relationship more than we value being right. If we can get ourselves to that humble place, a genuine I’m sorry will come naturally and instantly. I can tell you from personal experience that there has been so much freedom that has come to me when I am quick to apologize for my offenses. Jesus knew how important our ‘I’m sorry’ would be. That’s why in Matthew 5:23-24 he tells us that if we know someone is offended at us we need to immediately stop what we are doing and go and make amends reconciling the relationship. Even above our worship to God.
So what does a true apology really look like? There are a few different things that will always take place during a sincere apology, the kind that God will honor. The first thing that we need to do in our apology is get specific. We can’t just say I’m sorry you are hurt. We need to specifically apologize for the action that caused the offense. Let the other person know that you realize the behavior that caused the offense. The next thing to remember in an apology is to never make excuses. Don’t give every reason you behaved the way you did. Don’t explain to them that they just took it wrong. Be humble and just apologize for the behavior knowing that even if it was unintentional, that person’s pain is still valid.
The third thing to remember in an apology is to be ready to accept the consequences. Even if you get specific about the offending behavior and you don’t make excuses…there still may be consequences. If you have gossiped about a friend and they find out, even after an apology they may be slow to trust you again. That is the consequence of your offense. The next step in a sincere apology is to change the offending behavior. And finally, and most importantly a sincere apology will always include the words, “Will you forgive me.” Don’t just assume that I’m sorry is enough. You need to take that apology to the next level with all humility and ask that person for forgiveness. It’s a biblical principal and one that will bring great restoration into conflicted relationships. I don’t know about you, but I want to be quick to say I’m sorry to those I’ve hurt not just to honor them and our relationship, but to always honor my God. Nothing pleases our God like a sincere and heartfelt humble apology. So who do you need to say I’m sorry to?
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