In a post earlier this month, we examined the art of apologizing and recognized that many times we don’t apologize well.
What, then, does a good apology look like? I think it looks like this:
1. An Awareness of How You’ve Wronged the Other
2. An Earnest Feeling of Regret or Remorse
3. A Confession Accepting Responsibility for the Action
4. A Commitment to Change
The Biblical word for the kind of apology we’ve just described is REPENTANCE.
Authentic repentance leads God to forgive even the worst of criminals. I think of King David—who violated half of the Ten Commandments when he slept with one of his warrior’s wives, then had the man placed in the thick of battle so that he might be killed, yet when he finally understood the magnitude of what he had done, and cried out to God for mercy—was forgiven.
Did you follow the news story of Brenda Heist in early May? Eleven years ago she went missing without a trace. Her family and local police assumed she had died. Her husband was considered a suspect in her disappearance. No one heard a peep from her for 11 years.
Then, she showed up in Florida the first week of May. Her ex-husband stated that he is “angry, but searching for forgiveness.” Her daughter tweeted that she wished her mom would “rot in hell.” She noted that every birthday and Christmas she ached for her mom, but thought something terrible had happened to her.
It is hard to imagine that her 19-year-old daughter will ever be completely reconciled to her, but Brenda holds the key to her daughter’s healing – which will come in the form of an authentic apology – repentance.
By the way, in Celebrate Recovery and AA, this is a huge part of healing and deliverance. In Celebrate Recovery this is the sixth principle. In AA it is the 8th and 9th steps, making a list of all persons you’ve wronged and making direct amends to each of them. What happens when you confess your own sins – when you repent – is that you find healing for yourself. Which is why James writes, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16).
When another demonstrates an authentic apology and true repentance, how are we to respond?
We’ll answer that question in the next blog post.
Today's post is adaptated from the sermon, "Six Words to Set You Free," from the sermon series at Church of the Resurrection, Finding Joy in Real Life: 5 Habits for Living Well.