“Will You Forgive Me?” Is Not Semantics

Eric Russ

I think it seems fair to say that for some reason we have taken cues from the world that authentic, unhindered community is not only unrealistic, but not that important. I have come across very Godly and mature believers that are confused on this important matter of community. We must get back to making this essential as we disciple others. Please don’t fudge on this but instead teach this truth and more importantly, model this truth.  

Remember, when Christ tells us to forgive others just as Christ forgave us (Eph. 4:32, Col. 3:13, Mt. 6:14)? Let’s look at how this concept supposedly plays out in our society and if it helps relationships or not. Usually, when someone sins against us, our natural reaction is to not want to be put in a place where someone else has a part to play in freeing us from that wrong doing. We’d much rather free ourselves so we say things such as “my fault”, “didn’t mean to do that to you”, or “sorry about that”.  Many times what we are really trying to say is what we’ve done is really a cosmic whoops versus sin to take seriously. On the other side, the person who was wronged often responds by saying “no problem”, or “everyone makes mistakes”, “don’t worry about”, or “it was nothing”. Therefore the other party returns the favor by passively retracting any ownership that the wronged party might have in the process of reconciliation. 

The more alarming part of this scenario is this interaction becomes the norm of our relationships. The result is that trust is never truly built, safety is never restored, and this is why we are able to throw things back in each other’s face that we thought were dealt with. This is why bitterness creeps in, and we begin to paint a false picture of another person. This is why people are pegged as harsh and unloving when they actually call sin, sin because it is simply not the norm in our culture. Is it unloving? Or is it redemptive?

Although we like to think that forgiveness is a one way street, being thrown out by a super gracious God with no strings attached. Actually, this is not altogether true. Although forgiveness is freely out there and God is super gracious, Christ has paved a two way street. I propose that by definition of the cross, forgiveness is always available but only instituted when the other party realizes they have wronged a holy God and ask the Holy God to take them off the hook. God forgives and we have to admit we need forgiveness. God doesn’t take the “no big deal” route, nor does he let us say “oops, my fault.” Why would we do different than Christ? In the same way, as we follow Jesus’ model and obey his command, we must concede that there are two people in the relationship and there are two people that are needed for the relationship to be brought from brokenness to wholeness. 

So what does it look like to practically take our cues from Jesus in the area of receiving and forgiving people? 

As we recapitulate what was modeled to us theologically from Christ, when we wrong someone we do the following:

1. We don’t make excuses or justification

2. We clearly admit the sin and name the sin

3. We ask for the other person to forgive us (modeling that they are an important part of the reconciliation process)

4. The person who has been wronged now has the opportunity to do two things. 

      1. Take the person off the hook by extending forgiveness (Mt. 6:14)

      2. Encourage the person being forgiven that their wrong doing will not be connected to them during the rest of the relationship (1Cor. 13:5)

I must warn you, people will like to hear this theologically but when you hold them accountable they might not be so appreciative at first. You must build conviction from the teaching and redemptive model of Christ and let the Holy Spirit strengthen you to put in the time to teach a principle that has great gospel centrality; no wonder Satan is working hard for it to become a lost component in our relationships.

Thanks for making discipleship an issue!