"I forgive you." We all long to hear those three words from the person we have offended or sinned against. Being forgiven is critical in restoring relationships and healing wounds between friends and family members.
If you have been a reader of this blog for any length of time, you have previously read the biblical way to confess your sin to another person and ask their forgiveness. For the sake of those who have not seen those posts I will give you a brief outline here:
When you sin against someone in word or in deed and are convicted of your sin by the Spirit of God, you are obligated to go to them and confess your sin to that person (Matt. 5:23-24). An important caveat is that the one to whom you are confessing must already be aware of the sin. You must never confess sin and seek forgiveness from a person who was not aware of being sinned against.
For example: If you gossiped about "Jane" to "Betty" you do not go to Jane and tell her you gossiped about her to Betty. The person to go to is Betty! Betty is the one you sinned against by gossiping with her, and she is the one who needs to hear your confession and she is the one from whom you must seek forgiveness.
Jane is blissfully unaware you have gossiped about her! To tell Jane you gossiped with Betty would only cause her pain, and that is wrong and unnecessary. You would actually be doing more harm than good by such an action. Now, if for some reason Jane would become aware of your gossip through other means and then confront you on gossiping about her, you would then have confess your sin of gossip and seek her forgiveness as well.
The principle is that the scope of confession is as great as the scope of offense. You only confess to the person you sinned with or against. You only seek forgiveness from the person you hurt or offended.
The correct way to confess your sin is: (Name) I sinned against you when I (state what you did). I was wrong, will you please forgive me?" The absolute wrong way is to say, "I apologize" or "I'm sorry." To say you apologize leaves out any confession and is void of any accountability or measure of repentance. An apology also does not contain a request for forgiveness from the offended person. Apologies are essentially worthless to restore relationships.
Being sorry is nice, it is an expression of regret on your part that you hurt someone. However, simply saying "I'm sorry" does nothing to admit the sin, reconcile the relationship, or ask forgiveness for what you did wrong.
When you seek forgiveness from someone, the expectation is that you have repented of your sin. To repent means to turn away from that sin. The Greek word, metanoia means a radical change of mind for the better; to abhor your past sin; hate it so much that you run the other way from it.
Repentance is not optional in the life of a true Christian, it is required. The Lord Jesus began His earthly ministry with the call to repent (Matt. 4:17) and the apostles were charged to preach repentance as well (Luke 24:47).
When there is true repentance for sin there is evidence of that decision, there is visible fruit. We will pick up here next time.