How to forgive

I’m currently taking some training from the Ambassadors of Reconciliation, a Lutheran group that trains all different kinds of churches and organizations how to resolve conflict. One of the things that we have been talking about quite a bit is that the church has dropped the ball in one specific area – we haven’t taught people how to confess, and as a result, we haven’t taught people how to really forgive. How we forgive

Instead of confession, we have defaulted to “apology”. The word “apology” actually means “defense”, and that’s often what we do when we apologize. Instead of being honest and open an vulnerable, we are putting up a defense that says “Hey, I apologized, you can’t strike me, you can’t hurt me.”  Confession on the other hand means “to speak along with”.  When we confess our sins, we are simply speaking along with God, speaking along with what He sees of our sins and acknowledging them ourselves. When we confess our sins to other people, we are confessing along with the hurt that we have seen.

On the other hand, after our “apologies”, we don’t really get forgiveness, we get “it’s ok”. But the thing is, that if we are truly confessing – it’s not ok, it was hurtful, it was awful, it was sinful. Those things aren’t ok, and we can’t let them be. But we can forgive them. We can offer forgiveness from God and from ourselves. We can offer to do that hard work of actually forgiving rather than simply allowing. Forgiving does much more. It makes us whole and heals.

I’m thinking about these things and how they might change my life and those times when I have said “I apologize” instead of confessing my sin, and where I have said “it’s ok” rather than offering the completeness of forgiveness. I hope it will do the same for you, and I hope that together we can rejoice in the fact that Jesus doesn’t listen to our apologies, but to our confessions – and that He responds with forgiveness directly from His cross.