If we are to be one in the body of Christ, truly loving one another, we must learn how to apologize well to one another. If we are to bear the only mark of a Christian the world recognizes, we must learn to apologize well to them when we have sinned against them as well.
I am so thankful I learned early in my Christian life how to do an effective apology, for I have needed to do it often. Each time, I was not only completely forgiven, but quite honestly, I think their love for me grew, despite the fact that I had truly caused them pain that I could not take away.
I learned how to do an effective apology from a secular source. Letitia Baldridge, a writer about etiquette, had a moving story about a dinner party given in her honor in Washington D. C. to welcome her to the city. Her friend had gone all out inviting prestigious government officials, hiring a caterer, a florist, the whole works. But Letitia had written down the wrong date on her calendar and gone to the theatre and turned off her phone. She didn’t realize her enormous gaffe until the next morning when she turned on the phone to see countless desperate messages from her friend.
Immediately she went in person to her friend who was understandably icy. Letitia was broken-hearted, weeping, and telling her friend not just that she was so sorry, but how she realized the enormous embarrassment and pain she had caused to someone who had loved her so well. She wrote letters to all the guests, apologizing. She kept sending flowers to her friend, repeating her apology. Her friend finally melted and forgave Letitia.
A few principles she said were necessary for a good apology:
1. Do it in person if at all possible and immediately.
2. Describe the pain you have caused the person.
3. Make no excuses, even if it was unintentional — for there is blame for being careless, and any “but” minimizes or even nullifies an apology.
4. Do whatever you can to make restitution, realizing that it cannot truly make up for your sin.
All of my life I have had Springer Spaniels. Here I am as a teenager with my parents and “Chloe,” the Springer I had all of my growing up years and who meant so much to me. My dear husband allowed me to get three Springers in the life of our marriage: Darling, Heather, and Effie. He became a fan as well, brushing them and loving them well, as proverbs tells us to do. (“A righteous man cares for the life of his beast.”)
I love Springers. They are beautiful, affectionate, loyal, and melt my heart.
They are also hunters. God made them that way. So as a Springer owner I need to be aware of that and not let my Springer run off for he wants to accomplish his purpose in life.
Shortly after reading Letitia’s article, Effie, our new Springer Spaniel, escaped the house, ran off with a neighbor’s dog, and killed three homing pigeons that were in a cage in another neighbor’s backyard. Two of the pigeons had been trained to fly from Kearney, Nebraska to Dallas, Texas, and back. The third pigeon was on loan for 24 hours to be a stud. The neighbor, whom I did not personally know, was the father-in-law of our church’s worship leader. The owner called me, as my information was on Effie’s tag. The other dog had run off but he had Effie and told me what had happened. I was overcome with sorrow at my carelessness in not going immediately after Effie. What pain I had caused! Broken before God, I asked for His forgiveness and help.
I went immediately in person to the neighbor. Effie was covered with blood and proudly wagging her tail. I broke down in tears.
I told them I couldn’t even imagine the pain this caused them or the embarrassment and sorrow for the stud that had been on loan.
I said I had no excuse, and I didn’t. At the time I told myself I could look for Effie, if she hadn’t returned soon because I was in the middle of something, (I can’t remember what) but I should have gone immediately instead of putting my own needs first. Letitia’s article, which I believe God had me read shortly before this happened, helped me to avoid any excuse, any “but.”
I said I would pay for the cost of the three birds (which as I remember was about 2,000) though I knew there was no way to cover what had happened. I was wrong in being so careless with my dog. They allowed me to write them a check. I don’t think I wrote a note to the owner of the stud — but in retrospect, I should have.
They not only graciously forgave me but spoke well of me to others. I do not think the name of Christ was hurt. I did not deserve their forgiveness, but God gave me both wisdom and favor. Even as I write this today, so many decades later, I feel so tearfully grateful to God, to those neighbors, and I am still grieved over the pain I caused — yet I know I am washed, whiter than snow.
The best apology I can think of in Scripture is that of the younger son in the story of the prodigal sons. It has all the elements plus one important one that Letitia did not mention.
We have one more week in this series and then, in September, I hope you’ll join in a Paige Benton Brown study on Elijah and Elisha. The big change is that I’ll be posting on Thursdays during that time instead of Sundays, to work more closely with her streaming, which is on Wednesdays. (Then you can find her talk on u-tube until the following Tues. night.) If you have never done a study with Paige, you are in for a wonderful growth experience. More about this next week.
God Hunt Sunday
- How have you experienced the risenness of Christ in your life this week?
Monday: Ineffective and Effective Apologies
Four of my grandchildren and I made this song up this summer after studying John 17.
Click here, then download to see this 20-second video.
2. What stands out to you from the opening of this week?
Watch the following:
3. What stands out to you from the above and why?
4. Share a time when you gave or received an effective apology.
Tuesday: Beginning with God
When there is a problem in a horizontal relationship, there is always first a problem in the vertical relationship with God. This is why we must always start by going to God and asking, “How is it between us?”
5. Read Psalm 51:1-5
A. Challenge question: We know David sinned against Bathsheba and Uriah, so why do you think he says what he does in verse 4?
B. As a believer, why is it important to, first of all, recognize your sin before God before you go to the brother whom you sinned against?
C. What does David recognize about himself? Why is this vital to avoid self-deception?
D. Have you ever experienced the conviction of the Holy Spirit after you have self-justified yourself? How did He open your eyes?
6. Read Psalm 51:7-13
A. What do we desperately need according to verse 10?
B. What can happen to our witness when we are cleansed before God according to verses 12-13?
C. If you have experienced both the forgiveness of God and the forgiveness of an offended brother, share what helped to make it happen.
Wednesday: No Longer Worthy To Be Called Your Son
While the main point of this parable is the deceptiveness of “religious” folk like the Pharisees and the older brother that blinds them from their sin, there is also a good model of an effective apology from the repentant younger son.
7. Read Luke 15:11-16 and explain what happened and why this must have hurt the father so. How do you think the son might have justified himself and what does this tell you about the deceitfulness of the human heart?
8. Read Luke 15:17-21
A. How do you interpret the phrase “When he came to himself…?”
B. What is the first thing he is going to do according to verse 18a?
C. Why is going in person the best option? If you cannot go in person for a very good reason, what do you think is the next best option and why?
D. In verse 18b, how does he clearly state his sin without any “but?”
E. How does he recognize and articulate the pain he caused his father, and his desire to make restitution in verse 19?
9. Is the Lord speaking to you through the above in any way? If so, share.
Thursday: Practicing Apologizing
10. Take one of these scenarios, perhaps the one that comes closest to home, or create a true one, and explain what you would do to make things right, remembering what you’ve learned.
You stood up a friend for a lunch date because you forgot
You accused a friend of doing something and then, when you got more information, found you were wrong.
You passed on something a friend had told you in confidence and it got back to her.
11. Action assignment Choices: Choose one and tell us what happened.
- Discuss “Doing an effective apology” with family or friends over a meal or another setting and tell what happened.
- Train a child in doing an effective apology and tell what happened.
- If God has brought to your mind a wrong you never righted, and you are quite sure the wronged person is aware of it, right it and report back.
Friday: How Deep the Father’s Love For Us
12. How does the father respond to his younger son before his son even has a chance to apologize? (Luke 15:20)
13. What does Jesus tell us about the Father’s love for us in John 17:23? Do you believe this in your heart, mind, and soul?
14. What is the last thing Jesus prayed in His last prayer for us? (John 17:26)
15. Why it is important to forgive those who are not even sorry? (See Luke 23:34) How can we do this?
Recently had a conversation with my 12-year-old granddaughter, Sadie. I was affirming her for getting along so much better with her younger sister, and for hearing her apologize. I asked her what had changed. She said, “When I was younger I just always thought I was right and couldn’t see my sin. God is helping me see it better.”
Indeed, there are so many who “know not what they do,” nor do they think to be still before God and let Him show them. A lesson for us, and a lesson for forgiving.
16. What is the difference between forgiveness and setting boundaries when there is a pattern of betrayal? (Consider David and Saul)