That isn’t to say I haven’t given my wife grace, too, because I have. (The scale is tipped in her favor, absolutely.) I have had to put up with her here and there on occasion over these almost 10 years. Neither of us are perfect. Without grace, without mercy, and without forgiveness, our relationship would have burnt out years ago.
In pre-marital counseling, one of the most foundational pieces of advice that Emily’s pastor gave us was, “Do not say ‘sorry’, instead, ask for forgiveness.” I am so very thankful I was paying attention that day!
Luke records Jesus saying:
Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” – Luke 17:3-4
When we have done something wrong and sinned against another person, saying ‘sorry’ is kind of a cop-out. It is a way to alleviate our guilt, rather than repair the hurt we have caused. We see this in our children; sorry is the easiest way to get back to what we want, even if the other person is on the ground crying.
However, when we ask for forgiveness, we are forced to own our sin. We are recognizing that we are in the wrong, that the wrong was a sacred violation of that person’s worth, and that there is nothing we can do to reverse the violation. Asking for forgiveness is essentially throwing yourself to the mercy of the individual and refusing to move on until they are satisfied.
And although in our power, we can’t undo the sin – Jesus can, and Jesus will. By seeking forgiveness early and often in a relationship, God can repair the untold amount of damage you and I are capable of causing.
Extending grace and seeking forgiveness are the cornerstones of resilient relationships. As we (joyfully!) put up with the people God has placed in our lives, may we remember to ask for forgiveness, to extend it willingly, and to experience the profound love that comes from embracing the gift of mercy in our lives.
Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little –
Adam Hafenbridle, Thornwell Ministry and Recreation Coordinator