I think they’ve got to be two of the hardest phrases to say: I’m sorry’, and ‘I forgive you’. How often is ‘sorry’ accompanied by a ‘however’? To say ‘I’m sorry’ and truly mean it implies that you have wronged somebody, you have grieved or hurt someone in a way that needs to be dealt with for the sake of mending and restoring a relationship. It takes a good serving of humility, honesty, and gumption to truly say and be sorry. As well as this, ‘sorry’ acknowledges that you have impaired or jeopardised a relationship in some way and that this act was harmful to the relationship – something that will be avoided in the future.
What about the reply to ‘I’m sorry’? How often when someone apologises is the reply ‘forget about it, no worries, no problem at all’? It is hard to say ‘I forgive you’ because that confirms to the other person that they had wronged you in some way and that your relationship is in need of repair and restoration. Forgiving is not saying ‘forget about it, it doesn’t matter’ it is saying ‘yes what you did was wrong, it caused damage but I am willing to deal with this to repair and restore our relationship’.
To say ‘I’m sorry’ with disclaimers like ‘but or however’ is to not be truly sorry. To say ‘forget about it, it was nothing’ when forgiveness is what is needed is to avoid the situation to the detriment of the relationship. Both scenarios leave the relationship in a state of disrepair.
This is the same with our relationship with God: When we say sorry to God we are acknowledging that we have wronged Him and don’t wish to do this anymore, also that we have harmed our relationship with Him and we are wanting that relationship to be repaired and restored.
When God says ‘I forgive you’ (and be assured that he will) He is acknowledging that yes we have wronged Him and harmed our relationship with Him, and that He also wants to restore and repair that relationship. With God, he has already dealt with the consequences of the broken relationship. He has done all the hard work through his Son’s death on a cross.
Perhaps there is a relationship in your life in a state of disrepair because these two phrases haven’t been exchanged, maybe it’s your relationship with God. Don’t put this conversation off forever.
*Written for the Salvos ‘Light and Life’ program