After a long day of work and meetings, I gathered my things and headed to the dojo where my family has a membership. I started going to caged fitness after I sold my treadmill. I never thought I’d look forward to working out but I relish the time on the mat on Monday and Wednesday nights.
I get to move.
I get to punch.
I get to work the kinks out of my body.
Last night, I got to think.
When I walked into the dojo, another member (who I secretly call J-Lo) came over to me and said, “Look at the board. I come here because I don’t want to forgive a few people. I’d rather imagine their faces on this punching bag. Now, this month’s virtue is forgiveness.”
She said it all in fun but throughout the course of the class, the word Sensei Michael scribbled on the board burned in my mind like a red-hot branding iron: FORGIVENESS.
In between every kick, punch, crunch and lunge, the word forgiveness echoed through my body, forcing me to look at myself and how I allow others to treat me. I thought about all of the times I’ve been told I’m sorry for different things and the same thing. I thought about all of the times I’ve had promises and vows broken. I thought about all of the times I’ve been put out emotionally, physically and financially by others only to hear I’m sorry again.
In most cases people hurt you by accident with snarky comments and interruptions during conversation. They might step on your foot on the way to the bathroom at church or cut you off in traffic. Those are truly situations where people are engaging, making decisions on the fly. In their haste and without thinking things through, the potential is there to hurt another person by accident. Do you know what an accident is?
According to MerriamWebster.com, an accident is “a sudden event (such as a crash) that is not planned or intended and that causes damage or injury.” Essentially, the offender is going about day to day activity when he unintentionally hurts another person.
That is how you qualify a accident. That is when I can easily accept an apology—you had no clue that your actions could hurt me.
During a marriage maintenance session, a counselor once told me that anytime a person does something to you, knowing that it will hurt you it is abuse. When a spouse cheats, that is abuse. From the beginning, the spouse knows that those long conversations over dinner or drinks and flirty conversations would hurt the significant other. Sorry isn’t enough.
Intentional. When you walk up to someone and punch them in the face for no other reason than your immediate need to inflict pain, that is abuse. Sorry isn’t enough.
Intentional. When a person molests a child or rapes another person, that is abuse. Sorry isn’t enough.
As a person and a Christian I understand that we all mess up. We all make mistakes. Our wrongdoings against others, for the most part, are mistakes. But, as Christians we’ve often confused what God is capable of versus what we are capable of in our humanness. We’ve taken the Bible and made ourselves martyrs when that is not what we are called to be.
The problem with the way Christians view apologies is not the same as repentance.
To repent is to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better; be penitent. to remember or regard with self-reproach or contrition: to repent one’s injustice to another. to feel sorry for; regret; to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better; be penitent.
What most Christians fail to apply to their daily lives when forgiving others is that God requires two steps for your I’m sorry to be acceptable for him to continue a relationship with you. “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” (Acts 3:19, NIV)
Step 1: Apologize
If someone apologizes to you, you are required to forgive them. A lot. As Christians, we even forgive when we haven’t been asked. That is a great thing because we are required to give the same grace to others that God gifted us.
Matthew 18:5-22 shows us the forgiveness required of us but it makes no mention of the relationship that we are suppose to have with the brother who offended us. But, if you read the rest of chapter 18 you will see how forgiveness works. When the slave could not repay his debt to the king, the king felt compassion and released him because the slave made a promise to repay, to change his behavior. At the promise, the king didn’t welcome the slave to dinner. He released him. No relationship.
Step 2: Change
In order to honor the gift of forgiveness, when you offend someone you are required to do something.
Essentially, I accept your apology but you have a responsibility to go out and make a change in a way that honors the grace I gifted you. According to Acts 3:19, when we are sorry for offending God we are to repent THEN turn to God.
When you face the person you offended, you see the pain and grief in their eyes. You see the lines of worry and fear on their faces. You face God so you can see his pain. You face your father, mother, sister, brother, cousin, colleague or friend the same way; for the same reasons. Something in you should imprison the selfishness of your intentional offense to prevent you from sinning against the person repeatedly IF you want to maintain or move forward in relationship.
In addition to seeing the hurt, facing the offended allows them to see if you are contrite. It gives them an opportunity to look at you and try to determine if continuing a relationship with you is worth it. They need to look into your eyes and see if you are worthy of their gift of forgiveness. If you are, the person you offended might just keep you at their table, under their graces. When the king sent the slave away, he had to be certain that the slave was worthy of the relationship. The slave was not worthy as if you read the rest of Matthew 18 he gave no grace to others.
When forgiving others and considering how you will proceed in relationship, you must be able to assess how your offender gives grace. Does he or she hold grudges or won’t budge when someone offends them? Is this person kind to others without an ulterior motive? The king was wise in getting reports on the slave. It says I care enough about our relationship (or potential one) to hold you accountable: I gifted you something and I want to make sure you use it properly.
The best gift, outside of forgiveness, a person can give you is their trust. Think about it. Why do wealthy people call what they leave under financial care for their benefactors trust? A trust fund is a money fund. Trust is currency.
As Christians, we’ve got to stop wasting our currency on people who don’t deserve it. My forgiveness is worth something. It signifies that I trust you to get it right. When you abuse my trust, you are depleting my currency.
Even God gets sick of sin.
I’m human; not God. I am not equipped to handle your misuse of me.
As my journey to live in the freedom my salvation offers, I’m making a deliberate choice to stop being wasteful in every area. I can’t continue in the bondage of relationships that abuse me by taking advantage of my choice to forgive. With me trimming the fat from my waist (down 18 pounds), I’m getting rid of the greasy people around me who are not worthy of me.
If you are on the list, please take it personal because it is.
Sorry is no longer enough.