Since Sunday is the kick-off for The National Week of Repentance, I thought it might be helpful to take a moment to explore something vital: how to apologize. It’s something we all need to do, often and genuinely. The problem is, we often don’t know how. The truth is that we make it harder than it really is.
“It’s a lie to think we can get real with God and not be real with people.”
People don’t often stop to consider that repentance and reconciliation are siblings. Unless your sin is only against God (which is rare), it also affects people. When repentance is real, we often need to make things right with people, not just God. This involves apologizing, accepting apologies, forgiving and asking for forgiveness.
It’s a lie to think we can get real with God and not be real with people. Consider Jesus’ summary of life in Mark 12:30-31:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second (commandment) is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
We’ve got to learn how to genuinely apologize, accept apologies, forgive and accept forgiveness. Here’s how:
- HUMBLE YOURSELF, PRAY, SEEK GOD’S FACE AND TURN. This is where it all begins. If you read the Bible, God’s Word, and really humble yourself before Him, He will so convince and empower you to do what is right that the rest of what you are about to read and do will fall into place. Put first things first. Spend time with God, get His heart and mind on the matter, and He will enable you to do what is right.
- BE COURAGEOUS AND SINCERE. DO IT. The best way to apologize is to reflect on your sin, repent of it and then be honest. The more you get into the practice of being honest with God and honest with yourself, the easier it will be to become honest with people. And, you will find that people will begin to see your authenticity and respond in kind. (No, not every time. But you greatly increase the odds if you set the example).
- MAKE IT UNCONDITIONAL. Leave the consequences to God, not your imagination or the opinions of people. God knows when an apology is sincere and when it is not. Don’t apologize with preconditions. Your reward in apologizing is doing what is right before God and people, not because it will be recognized or applauded by people. If you have preconceived expectations and wait for people to approve or respond to you, you will set yourself up for discouragement. Just do what is right – without conditions – and trust God.
- DON’T JUST APOLOGIZE, DO SOMETHING. If you have gossiped, slandered, lied or stolen, you may very well need to do more than simply apologize to the person(s) immediately affected. You may need to go to others and seek forgiveness to make things right. There may be consequences to confessing to a lie or returning something you have stolen. God honors truth and honesty. Do what is right and trust God for the consequences. Many people get stuck in life for no other reason than not doing what they know, deep down, needs to be done.
- DON’T GET DISCOURAGED. Apologizing may be new for you. Congratulations! That is what repentance is. It’s all about turning over a new way of living. Others may not believe you at first. But as you walk with God you will develop a new reputation with people. Keep doing what is right, and don’t let human comments discourage you along the way.
- TRUST GOD ALL THE WAY. Remember this simple saying: “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe” (Proverbs 29:25). At the end of the day, you’ll either follow God or people. Follow God, and leave the consequences to Him. Someday, perhaps sooner than you think, you’ll be glad you did. In this life you’ll experience a freedom and joy that only comes from truly trusting God. And in the life to come, you’ll be rewarded even more.
HOW ABOUT YOU? Is there someone who needs to hear your sincere apology? Is there someone you need to forgive?
The National Week of Repentance is for you, your family and your house of worship. Take some time to visit RevivalMatters.com, the official site for the week, and take your walk with God to a deeper, higher place.