So you’ve messed up and apologized. You only owe one apology per offense, right? Not necessarily. Yes, the person you wronged is commanded to be quick to forgive you, but some cases can be better resolved after multiple apologies. Likewise, several layers of apologies may be helpful to restore intimacy.
As a Christian, you are not condemned. So, if you’re feeling unsettled even after you’ve apologized, you’ll want to proceed prayerfully to know if the Lord is prompting a next-level apology…or to see if this idea is actually coming out of wrong reasons such as people-pleasing, co-dependency issues, false guilt, etc.
If someone is coming to your mind right now and you’re wondering if you need to apologize again (or maybe even apologize when you’re the one who is owed an apology), the following exercise can help guide you.
Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:
*Is the Lord speaking to your situation through these apologetic scenarios?
“So, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt. 5:23-24). There’s room here for the possibility that the one at the altar could extend a previous apology, yet it lack enough depth or sincerity for the brother to release the grievance.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone…if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you…” (Mt. 18:15, 16). There’s room here for the possibility that a brother might only offer a half-apology and not agree when being asked for a more complete apology.
“…you were grieved into repenting…” (2 Cor. 7:9). There’s room here for the possibility that as they grieved, the repentant ones became increasingly sorry, maybe even apologizing once more. There’s also room here for the possibility that during the grieving period the offended can be struggling to forgive; but once a fresh apology is delivered, forgiveness comes easier.
*Does this basic truth resonate?
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). There’s room here for the possibility that an apology you previously gave – before you knew Christ – doesn’t feel sorrowful enough to you now, and you want to do it again.
*Do any of these foundational commands apply?
“You shall love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mk. 12:30). There’s room here for the possibility that the more of you that loves God, the more you’re able to hear Him telling you to do a better job apologizing.
“…be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). There’s room here for the possibility that with a renewed mind, you think differently about the situation and can apologize with a clearer perspective now.
“…continue to work out your own salvation…” (Phil. 2:12). There’s room here for the possibility that the more you live out your salvation, the more regretful you’ll feel about your sin towards another, leading you to a more deep and sincere level of apology.
*Still not sure?
“Humble yourself before the Lord, and He will exalt you…Carry out this act of grace…for the glory of the Lord…” (Jas. 4:10; 2 Cor. 8:19). There’s room here for the possibility that if you’re being led to offer someone another apology – and it’s coming from a humble place in your heart – then God is being glorified by you!
Be careful. It is hard not to retaliate or seek justice when you’ve been wronged. And you’ve probably even been told that it’s your right to punish those who hurt you. Then, of course, social media makes it seem so normal to lash out against your offenders, or to even take them down. But all of this can lead you in a bad direction. And even if you don’t fight your cause very hard, anger can remain at a simmer if you aren’t on guard.
- It’s not your job to respond. When Paul writes to Timothy that Alexander the coppersmith did him great harm, Paul didn’t even begin a new sentence before he quickly said, “…the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.” (2 Tim. 4:14)
- Don’t insist that others take up for you. When no one defended Paul, he emphatically asked the Lord not to hold it against them. (v. 16)
- Use wisdom to know when and how to warn others. Paul was right to speak out about Alexander because the man’s actions opposed the gospel. But he didn’t elaborate unnecessarily, nor did he throw him under the bus. (v. 15)
- Know your true Defender. Paul had no doubt that the Lord would strengthen him to carry out His message, rescue him from any and all evil deeds, and bring him safely into His kingdom, for His glory. Declaring his beliefs was a reminder to him and to others who his God is. (v. 17, 18)
Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:
Let this passage of the Bible be your “victim mentality” prevention plan…make you a more forgiving person…improve your relationships…help you focus on what you’re to be about…and foster a closer walk with God.
There’s more to forgiveness than having Jesus cancel your debt of sin. There’s actually a flow of forgiveness events.
1. Once you hear about your pardon from God, it’s up to you to receive His forgiveness. Receiving forgiveness does not necessarily happen naturally or automatically, but requires you to be open and to have faith. (Jer. 31:34; Jn. 3:16; Acts 2:38)
2. This awakening to what God has done for you changes your viewpoint of sin. It is here that you become fed up with sin and long for repentance. (Mk. 1:4-5; Lk. 15:7; Acts 3:19; 2 Cor. 7:10; 2:5)
3. The more you can acknowledge your sin and this amazing gift of forgiveness, the deeper that forgiveness can penetrate your being, leading you to respond in awe and gratitude of the Lord. (Is. 12; Luke 7:36-50; Rom. 6-8; 1 Cor. 15:57; Eph. 2:8)
4. But this isn’t just about your sin and God’s response to it. There’s a connection with the sins of others, too. God doesn’t let you get away with receiving forgiveness for yourself without forgiving others. (Mt. 18:21-35; Mk. 11:25; Eph. 4:31-32: Col. 3:13)
5. When it comes to forgiving others, it’s not so much what you do, as what you don’t do. Don’t use your ability to block forgiveness. Let forgiveness happen. Through your link with God, His love and power will work through your heart enabling you to forgive. This applies to forgiving yourself as well. (Gen. 50:15-21; Mt. 5:39; 1 Cor. 13; 2 Cor. 2:5-11; Eph. 1; 2:4; Col. 1:11-14; Heb. 12:14-15)
6. Moving through the tiers of forgiveness results in contentment, peace, and joy. (2 Cor. 12:10; 1 Tim. 6:6; Mk. 5:34; Mk. 9:50; 2 Cor. 13:11; Rom. 14:17-19; 1 Thess. 1:6)
So, where are you? Have you gotten caught in a whirlpool, spinning around on one of the levels of forgiveness without allowing yourself to continue advancing?
Are you stuck on the first step – struggling to truly receive forgiveness from God?
Are you stuck on the second step – living as if you don’t realize you’ve been rescued from the hold of sin?
Are you stuck on the third step – taking your forgiveness for granted without really grasping the significance of it?
Are you stuck on the fourth step – refusing to forgive someone else?
Are you stuck on the fifth step – obstructing God’s forgiveness from moving through you to others, or even to yourself?
Keeping Room Tips: Be honest with yourself about your current fixed level of forgiveness. Pray specifically for the faith you need to believe that it is good to be loosened from this jam. Then, trust His work and obey His instruction so that you can glide through the full journey flow of forgiveness. (Gal 5:22; 1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Pet. 3:14)
*A Marriage Story: She dreamed of love like every other girl, but her dreams were shattered when her husband abandoned their family for a reckless lifestyle. She endured 10 years of pain and suffering waiting to get her dream back. Yet, she was prepared to offer radical forgiveness to her repenting husband because she truly understood that such forgiveness and reconciliation is a reflection of what her Savior did for her on the cross (2 Cor. 5:18-21). On the day of the long-awaited reunion with the man of her dreams, the Presence of God took her breath away and led her to new levels of faith and worship. Forgiveness makes dreams come true.
*A Friend Story: Before betrayal took place in the friendship, their bond had developed from a mutual dream of experiencing life-long Christian sisterhood between friends. Their commitment to one another was stronger than the moment the betrayal was taking place. The friends understood that the struggle in this conflict was not against one another, but involved a fight against the Enemy of their friendship (Eph. 6:12, Msg). In this moment of hurt, the Protection of God helped them win the fight against their real Foe, and led them to new levels of gratitude for this friendship of their dreams. Forgiveness makes dreams come true.
*A Woman & Child Story: Out of her prayerful heart, the woman dreamed of mentoring the beautiful child. So, when the two of them were unexpectedly separated for six years, many prayers were uttered that hearts would remain soft and surrendered to the love and forgiveness that God desired. Finally, after six hard, growth-producing years of praying, healing, confessing, and forgiving, God’s perfect moment arrived in the seventh year. Two families were delivered from 6 years of separation, and in the 7th year no harm was done (Job 5:19, NRSV). This dreamy relationship never left His Holy and Good hand. The Work of God erased the hurt and tallied years, and restored the dream. Forgiveness makes dreams come true.
*The God on the Cross Story: He had a very good dream when He made people in His image (Gen. 1:26-31), but they doubted His goodness and sinned against Him (Gen. 3). Yet, even as His people were looking away from Him, the Salvation of God was preparing to fulfill dreams that last for eternity (Lk. 24:44-47). Forgiveness makes dreams come true.
Keeping Room Tips: Think about this: You could be the one preventing your dreams from coming true if you’re holding onto un-forgiveness, therefore cutting yourself off from God. (Mt. 6:14-15, Msg). Forgive like Jesus did so that your dreams can come true.
*A Marriage Story: She became a Christian after they got married, but he could not stop seeking pleasure and fulfillment in bad things. Her friends encouraged her to end the marriage, but she sensed that the Lord was telling her not to give up. She waited and prayed for him for 10 years. Then one day, he found God, and the prodigal husband-father came home. Just one year later, the couple told thousands of people at their church what the Lord had done in this man’s life. How was his wife ready to tell their story after only 1 year when he had been damaging their family for many years? Forgiveness trumps time.
*A Best Friend Story: She betrayed her closest friend by sharing confidential information with someone else. When the friend in the wrong was making her confession, the betrayed friend felt deeply hurt. Yet, at the exact moment this wounded friend was experiencing pain and dealing with the matter, she could feel healing emerging in her heart. She didn’t need time to “sit in the hurt” before she started to recover. How could she experience both hurt and restoration in the same moment of time? Forgiveness trumps time.
*A Woman & Child Story: The woman and child were separated for 6 years. Yet, the woman never stopped praying for and loving this special child in her life. Because she was confident that the Lord had created this relationship, the woman had complete faith that their bond would be rekindled one day. That day came when the child was ten years old. The two were reunited, and the gap of time that had separated them for 6 years was instantly closed. How could a young child and adult resume such an intimate and immediate relationship after so many years? Forgiveness trumps time.
*The God on the Cross Story: The criminal by His side admitted his wrongdoing and asked Jesus to remember him. Jesus promised quick eternal reward (Lk. 23:43). How was Jesus able to receive him “just like that?” Forgiveness trumps time.
Keeping Room Tips: Think about this: 1) Christ was sacrificed for you – not many times, but once and for all 2) the Lord is simultaneously present for you – in the Beginning and in the End of every hurt of your life. 3) Jesus abounds with love for you – so that forgiveness trumps time. (Heb. 9:25-10:18, Rev. 4:8, Nm. 14:18, Ps. 86:5, Is. 44:18).
From a distance, the Azalea Bushes looked healthy and pretty. They were planted in a good place to grow and everyone thought they were serving a good purpose. But the gardener knew better. The gardener knelt down close to the bushes and saw what others could not see. He saw the chaos inside the row of bushes. The lack of yearly pruning had made the bushes spindly and weak. The gardener had to significantly cut back the branches. So, the yard work required the bushes to: become exposed and be in a time of waiting in order to re-grow properly. The Azaleas no longer looked as dramatic, but they were actually healthier than they had been in years.
From a distance, the Minister’s eyes looked normal enough. He wore glasses and everyone assumed his vision was corrected and functional. But the surgeon knew better. The surgeon shined a bright light into his eye and saw what others could not see. He saw the detachment inside; the aging process was especially harsh on this Minister’s eye. The surgeon needed to reattach the retina and a gas bubble was inserted. So, the recovery process required the man to: trust God with the healing, change his lifestyle, and seek help from others. The Minister didn’t appear as strong and able as before, but he modeled how to depend on the Lord and others in a way he hadn’t done in years.
From a distance, the Business Woman looked young and lovely. The makeup she wore seemed to be as appropriate for her as for all the other women in her office. But the makeup consultant knew better. The makeup consultant sat close to the woman and saw what others could not see. The Business Woman’s face had become dry and uneven in tone over the years, and it was not effective to hide underneath thick layers of makeup. So, the consultation required the woman to: better care for her skin, wear less makeup, and enhance her facial features. The Business Woman couldn’t pass for a striking cosmetics model, but her face had more glow than it had in years.
Keeping Room Tips: Up close, don’t be afraid to be real. It may look like there is nothing going on inside, but Jesus knows better. There is no one who does not sin (1 Kings 8:46). Jesus wants to prune, operate, and wash. So, being a follower of Jesus requires: cutting back the shrubs, letting others know what’s going on behind your glasses, and washing off any excess makeup. In other words, acknowledge and confess your sins, receive forgiveness, and repent. He chooses not to recall your sins, He surrounds you with songs of deliverance, and He heals. And, when you trust in Him you will discover His unfailing love surrounding you and guiding you. You will experience more freedom than you’ve had in years (Psalm 32).