By: Mike Kelly
Have you offended anyone lately? Recently I wrote something that got someone’s nose out of joint. It was totally unintended.
They felt I had made them look bad. After seeing it from their point of view, I could see how they felt. So, an apology was needed.
I’ve always been fairly good at apologizing. After all, I’m a man who has been married for 57 years. To say I’ve messed up a lot is probably an understatement.
You’d have to ask my wife how much and we know that as any woman, she can give a play-by-play replay of all the times I offended her. But don’t ask unless you have plenty of time to listen.
I’ve also been in the pastoring business for 42 years. I probably offended people with every sermon and with most every decision and every ministry I helped to start.
And sometimes I have had to apologize for doing what I think the Lord called me to do (but maybe not doing it as well as He would have wanted) and at other times for being totally insensitive to someone’s feeling…I did mention I’m a man, right?
So, it might be fair to say that I have my PhD in apologizing. (Just like I have earned my PhD in whining). Interestingly, there isn’t much scripture on apologizing.
We’re told in Luke 17:3 “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.” It appears that the word “repent” is today’s equivalent of “apologize.”
What first caught my attention was the word “rebuke’. That is a harsh word. I looked in a dozen translations for one not using that word but was unsuccessful.
“In the Bible, the term “rebuke” is used to convey a strong expression of disapproval, reproof, or correction. It often implies a stern or sharp criticism intended to correct someone’s behavior, attitude, or actions.”
That sort of offends me. Then I focused on the way to rebuke, and it doesn’t have to be so offensive or harsh but can, and I believe should, be in a quiet manner like the HS rebukes us gently at first. The words can hurt but the manner of delivery should be gentle and redemptive.
So, once rebuked, repentance involves looking back to see what you did. Accepting that you were responsible for the harm done. Changing your thinking about it so that you will not do it again. And finally, asking forgiveness from the one harmed be he God or a fellow human.
In other words, even if he/she doesn’t repent, you have to lay it down for the Lord to deal with. You can’t harbor hatred and anger in your heart.
That would be sin on your part and self-destructive to your own mental and spiritual health and relationship with God.
I will say honestly that this is very hard for me to do. Letting go of the offense and forgiving the offender even if they refuse to admit the wrongness of their actions.
The only way to do this that I know is to lay it down before the Lord and know that He will deal with it. There is another side to being offended.
We have the offender but also the offended. There is some Biblical wisdom for the one offended as well. Lev 19:17-18 ‘“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”
We must let go of the offense, apology or not, repentance or not. If we hold on to the offense and the emotions it generates, we are both harming ourselves and sinning.
Mike Kelly is the founding pastor of Bryan’s Grace Community Church (retired) and Board Chairman of Bryan’s Sanctuary Homeless Shelter and Williams County’s Compassion (free) Medical Clinic.