Posted 09-11-04

How To Apologize
By D. B. Martin

Sometimes we try to worship God and He doesn’t show up. The sky is brass. Why? Jesus described one such case and tells us why.

Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24 NKJV).

Worship is offering yourself and your gifts to God, whether in private, family, or church. Jesus says your worship is not acceptable if you have offended someone and not tried to make it right. If that is your situation, Jesus requires you to leave the worship service and “…be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

As a pastor, my practice for years was to arrive at my office before anyone else and have my private devotions. Sometimes during those attempted devotions God reminded me that I was unkind to someone, usually my wife. I had to call her and apologize before I could pray and sense God’s presence.

Paul says, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Eph. 4:29). The very next verse says, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,” (vs. 30a).

So how do we apologize? It is one of the most difficult things we ever do.

Here are some wrong ways to apologize. Saying “sorry” is better than nothing, but what does it mean? It often means, “I’m sorry you took it wrong” (blaming him or her for taking it wrong). Or it may mean, “I’m sorry you were offended but it wasn’t my fault” (followed by blame shifting and excuses). Another inadequate apology is, “If I did anything to offend you, I’m sorry.” In most cases, you know what you said or did to offend them.

Broken relationships are very serious and need God’s help for healing. Solomon said, “A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city,” (Proverbs 18:19). It is especially difficult when the person we have offended has also offended us. That does not, however, make our offensive behavior justified. God still requires us to apologize for our wrongs.

When you become aware you have offended someone, go to God in prayer asking Him to forgive you. In fact, we really need to get serious about apologizing to God. The Bible says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). God loves you and sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for your sins. Jesus arose the third day and is ready to forgive you. When you are right with God, He gives you grace to show the kind of humility successful apologies require.

Here are some suggestions for better apologies. Go to the offended person and say, “I was so wrong …” (and be specific how you were wrong). Say, “I have asked God to forgive me and I believe He has. Will you forgive me also?” Then wait expectantly for a response.

If you honestly do not know how you offended him, pray about it. Then go to the offended person and say, “I really care about you and our friendship. Apparently I have offended you. Please help me by telling me what it was so that I can make it right.” Be willing to listen without justifying yourself or making excuses. Be willing to say, “I was wrong. Please forgive me.”

Suppose he says, “Don’t mention it,” or “Think nothing of it.” Almost all languages have a similar response that minimizes apologies, leaving forgiveness uncertain. For casual offenses, such as bumping someone, that may be appropriate, but God has convicted you about needing to be forgiven. Don’t allow him to minimize your apology. Say, “I can’t do that. I was wrong and need to know you have really forgiven me. Will you?" Again, wait for him to say “Yes,” or “Yes, I forgive you.” It is amazing how those words can allow God to heal his hurt and give him peace…and you as well.

Even if he was wrong too, that may not be the time to confront him. You are not responsible for his wrongs, only yours. Be sure of his forgiveness. A future message will deal with more on how to confront an offender with a view to reconciliation.

If the offended person truly forgives you, God may also lead him to apologize to you. If so, take his apology seriously and say, “Thank you for your apology. Yes, I forgive you as well.” Again, they need to hear you say that.

However, don’t be surprised if the offended person doesn’t forgive you. If you have done your best to humbly apologize, your conscience can be clear. Your objective was to please God by making right your wrong, thus removing hindrances to your worship and prayer.

Humbly apologizing and rightly receiving apologies can enable God to send revival to our lives. So apologize and forgive and watch God pour out his love. Amen!

© 2004 D. B. Martin

To view previous Maranathalerts, see the Maranathalert Archives.

Note: “Maranatha” means, “Behold He Is Coming,” an early Christian greeting. “Alert,” reminds us to be ready. Blessings in Jesus! D.B.

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