We often hear a lot in the church today about forgiveness. A great emphasis has been placed on it over the years. Often we hear the words of Jesus preached, "But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:15), and these words are powerful and true and very necessary, YET very little instruction is spoken to the offender. Sadly, when we only read and preach the Word in such a lopsided manner, the victim must bear all the weight of responsibility in this type of conflict. Is there so little care of the condition of the offender themselves? They, too need to be made whole.
From the perspective of the offender, pretending that the you've done nothing to harm someone or that nothing happened at all is not an apology. Going on about the business of the day as if you've done no damage at all only adds bitterness to insult, and you have become a stumbling block to your brother. It's sin upon sin and rarely does anyone ever address it. Perhaps our culture, even inside the church, has become so used to just accepting evil that no one even thinks to address this, but Jesus did! Jesus did not tiptoe around these issues because, as insignificant as they may seem to some, they are detrimental to the building of the Kingdom of God. We need to rediscover humility and some very good vocabulary for humility are words like, "I'm sorry" or "Please accept my apology. I shouldn't have done what I did." Other options could include, "I regret my behavior" and "Will you forgive me?"
Those may be hard words to swallow, but there are
harder words even yet to consider.
The words of Christ were, "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
Jesus said to first make peace, and then come worship Him. Think about this for a moment. Jesus doesn't even want our worship if we cannot treat our brothers and sisters with kindness and walk in humility. Why? Because this behavior is rooted in pride, and God hates pride and resists the proud. This is a serious problem because the one who does these things, and does not come under the conviction of repentance for them, will repeat them over and over. That's the ugliness of pride unchecked. This environment of hostility is not conducive for God's work.
You may think 'Well, they just need to forgive and get over it', but that is their worship between them and God. It has nothing to do with you. YOUR worship is to 'go to your brother and be reconciled first." And that only begins with a truly contrite heart (putting away of one's pride) and humble words like those I mention earlier.
This isn't about playing church; it's about being holy.
Apart from this, there really is no other form of worship.
If we cannot live in peace and harmony IN GOD'S HOUSE, then how do we suppose we have any platform to preach the conviction of sins to the world? We don't because, until we learn to walk humbly with our God, we have conformed to the world. You have to come out of it to preach to it.
And finally, when someone comes to you to ask to be forgiven, your response should genuinely be, "I already have" because God's children should be quick to forgive. Each person has a holy work to do, and neither one should be concerned with how far the other has come in their work. If you are the offender, you must apologize and make peace. If you are the offended, you must forgive. Any other scenario is disobedience and displeasing to God.
The good news is, with prayer and obedience, the Lord will help us, with abounding grace, to do what He requires.
May the grace of our Father be with you always.