What is an apology for? Why do we say “I’m sorry”? What are we really looking for when we insist someone says they are sorry?
I apologize a lot. I probably say “I’m sorry” more than any other phrase. This could be because I’m a little insecure and feel apologetic more than is actually necessary. It could also be because I do a lot of things for which I should be sorry about. It surely goes all the way back to the fact that I’m a sinner who needs to repent and be forgiven.
One of things I realized a few years ago is that we have a lot of “I’m sorrys” in this world but not a lot of “I forgive yous” to go along with them.
The reason we say we are sorry is in order to be forgiven. That is what happens when we say “I’m sorry” to God. When we sin, when we break His perfect Law, we need to repent. But that can only truly happen if we are forgiven. We have remorse, we feel bad, and we say we are sorry. But to really repent – to turn away from that sin and follow God’s path – requires that the sin be removed. God must forgive us our sins in order for us to change our ways, to live a better life, to live the life He intended us to live. And that is what God does.
God removes our sins because of the perfect sacrifice that Jesus Christ performed on the cross. Sin must be punished. We call that justice and God is a just God. But God is also a merciful God. That doesn’t mean He just looks the other way when we sin, for that would not be justice. God punishes sin – all sin. He did this by punishing Jesus Christ on the cross, who took all sin on himself.
So when we say we are sorry to God, He forgives us because of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. When we say “I’m sorry” to God, He says to us, “I forgive you.”
Shouldn’t we do the same with each other?
But we don’t do that, do we? We say things like “that’s ok,” or “don’t worry about it,” or “no big deal.” We say almost anything else other than “I forgive you.” Why is that?
It could be because we do not understand the concept of remorse and forgiveness, because we haven’t fully grasped what God has done for us in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
It could also be because we are not interesting in forgiving someone who has wronged us. We will insists that someone apologizes to us but withhold forgiveness because we were more interested in holding that power over a person instead of reconciling the relationship that is marred by the sin.
But if we do this, then we are praying something very dangerous when we pray the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (emphasis added). Do we really want God to forgive us as we forgive others?
The next time someone says “I’m sorry” to you, say (and mean) these powerful words, “I forgive you.” You might be surprised at the reaction you receive. And you will also begin to understand the love God has for you.