I was recently in an exchange on Facebook, as I do every so often, and the conversation got to a fever pitch. Emotions flare regularly with people who are not emotionally or spiritually mature to handle such a volatile topic as faith. The age of the individuals didn’t help in this instance.
When it was all said and done, some people went away mad. However, within a half hour, I received a message in my Inbox. This person, who doesn’t happen to be my friend on Facebook, wrote to apologize and used that very word. However, when you broke down this apology, it was…well…just wasn’t an apology. However, I extended grace and thanked them for writing, told them it was a commendable thing that they had written, and that we’d have to agree to disagree.
Not once did I state that I accepted their apology.
Now, there’s a reason for that but I’m not going to get into details at the moment (I know, I’m just mean. Goodness. Life is rough. Pray hard). Suffice it to say that there’s a marked difference between giving an apology and asking for forgiveness.
When we apologize, we are saying that we are expressing regret or remorse for a slight or injury. But there’s a secondary meaning and it is giving a defense or vindication for something. Many people’s apologies are a mixture of the two. They have remorse for the result of what they did, but not for what they did.
Forgiveness, on the other hand, is a pardon for something that has been done. When we ask for forgiveness it takes humility because we have to admit we’ve actually done something wrong with a view to repent from that act. It’s why God uses forgiveness of sin to save, not sorrow. God is plenty sorrowful over our sins but without forgiveness, we’re doomed.
As Christians, we are to extend forgiveness as many times as it is asked of us (Matthew 18:21-22). But an apology is not asking for forgiveness. It’s being sorrowful or remorseful for what someone did. It’s what Judas and Cain did and look what that got both of them. It’s not taking responsibility for it which is what asking for forgiveness entails.
Today, I’d like to encourage you not to apologize to people but ask for their forgiveness. Take responsibility for what you’ve done if anything and extend grace to them as many times as they ask. Humble yourself and God will lift you up (James 4:10). It’s how relationships heal and strengthen. It’s how love grows. That’s what we should all be about.