Say You’re Sorry!
A loud bang.
Then louder screaming.
I round the corner to see my two little girls in tears crying over the remains of a broken My-Littlest-Pony-Petshop-Barbie-Vetrinarian-Dog-House-Palace thing… Honestly, I have no idea what it is–it’s big, pink, plastic and even duct tape won’t work for this job.
Me: “What happened in here?” (I know exactly what happened in here…)
Kaitlyn: “She took my toy and broke it! SHE ALWAYS DOES THIS!!!!!”
Me: (As I look at the obliterated remains of the pink thing I can’t fix, I muster up the deepest, most profound thing I can think of…) “Meagan, say you’re sorry.”
Meagan: “OK. (giggles) Me Sorry Kaitlyn.”
Kaitlyn: “Hmmph. She doesn’t mean it.” (True, but at least it’s quiet…)
Me: “Let’s clean this up and you two go outside and play.”
Oldest: “Sigh, OK.”
Crisis averted. They went out and played, but I missed a huge opportunity. I missed a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the gospel to my children in their discipline. Saying sorry just doesn’t cut it. There was a lesson that could have been taught.
I could have taught them about the gospel of forgiveness and reconciliation.
That may seem silly to some of you, but think about it. Imagine the lasting effect it would have if each time we are disciplining, we teach our kids the gospel of forgiveness and reconciliation in Jesus Christ, (even at 4 and 7) and how to apply that in their daily lives. When they grow up, perhaps they would honestly seek these things when they do sin against others.
And they will sin against others.
I mean we all sin.
We often wrong each other, don’t we? We break each other’s big pink pony barbie pet shop palace things and duct tape just isn’t enough to fix it. We daily sin against each other and against God. In our sin we cause a rift in our relationship with God, yet He tells us that He is faithful to forgive our sins if we repent and He will reconcile our broken relationship because of the work of Jesus Christ. He is gracious.
When we sin against each other, it is not unlike kids smashing each other’s big pink pony littlest pet Barbie shop doll houses…it causes rifts in our relationships with others. Seeking forgiveness is difficult, but if we are truly repentant then it is important that we ask for forgiveness for the sins we have committed, so that reconciliation may follow.
And how we do it matters… how we apologize and ask for forgiveness will show where our heart really is, whether we really mean it or not. Whether we have ulterior motives and are simply manipulating a situation or a person to our desires. If, like my daughter, we refuse at first and then giggle when we say sorry just to get dad off our back, then we are not really sorry. If we are truly repentant, if we know how much we have been forgiven ourselves, we will not play games. We will not make excuses. We will mean it. We will seek forgiveness and reconciliation.
So how do we apologize?
Some people refuse to apologize. They are never wrong. This was Meagan at first, when she said, “No!” These people are bound by sinful pride.
Other people give half-hearted apologizes, that are more coerced by others. The, “I’m sorry you are offended by what I did apology.” It would be like Meagan saying, “I’m sorry if you were offended by my breaking your big pink pony castle pet shop thing…” This is a way of saying that you are not really wrong and the other person is just too sensitive.
Then there is just simply saying, “I’m sorry.” Meagan said she was sorry. There is nothing wrong with it per se, but it is superficial. You may genuinely be sorry. But just saying sorry does not address the wrong and rarely does it lead to reconciliation. There was no admission of wrong, guilt, or sin. And, there was no request for forgiveness. Forgiveness is required to move toward reconciliation. Just saying sorry doesn’t cut it.
Others say they are sorry, ask for forgiveness, then bury the apology under a mountain of excuses. The “I’m sorry. BUT…” apology. Our 7 year old is the queen of these apologies. “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me? I just lost my footing when I climbed up the toy chest. It must have been ready to break. My parents were dysfunctional when I was growing up so I didn’t learn how to share. Dad never disciplined me properly, so I never learned how to deal with my sister or others…”
Finally there is the Biblical apology. Apology, admission of guilt, a request for forgiveness in order to work toward reconciliation. This person says, “I’m sorry. I was wrong for taking your toy and breaking it.” They confess specific ways they sinned against you.
There are no excuses, and it doesn’t stop there.
“I sinned. Would you please forgive me? How can I make this right? How can we reconcile and make our relationship right?” They move from admission of guilt to talking about reconciliation. There is no deflection of blame. There is no guilt tactic. There is no giggling. There is no ulterior motive. There is only sincere repentance and desire for reconciliation. Perhaps the hurt runs deep, perhaps the big pink barbie pony pet palace thing being destroyed caused you great harm and reconciliation will be a very long process, that is ok. The apology is sincere, sin has been confessed, forgiveness requested and reconciliation sought…
I know that is a lot to teach a 4 year old. But if that is what I want for my children when they grow up, then I had better start now. Now I just have wait for the next screaming match…
Shouldn’t be too long…
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.