At the heart of the gospel is the message of God’s forgiveness. Christ died that we might receive the forgiveness of sins that we all desperately need (Rom.3:23). But, God’s forgiveness of our sin through the work of Jesus is not only a rich theological truth which impacts our relationship with God, it also shapes our interactions with each other. In our culture, we are more prone to apologize for things we have done then actually extend or ask for forgiveness. Typically when we observe something we have done which is wrong we believe that “I’m sorry” is sufficient to remove the wrong we have perpetrated.
However, the cross changes our perspective. Jesus suffered on Calvary for our sin. A mere “I’m sorry” didn’t cut it. Our sin had to be punished. The cross unmasks our sin for what it really is – worthy of death. The punishment for our wrong doing is not removed by a simple statement of regret! The punishment of someone who stands in our place is the only was for our sin to be forgiven. Now we must come to Jesus, admit that our sin really did deserve death, and ask God to forgive us! Think of the impact this revelation has on the way we interact with each other. When I sin against someone, and that sin is brought to my attention, I must specifically name the offense I have committed, and ask to be forgiven of that sin, not merely claim that I have some feeling of regret over what happened (which is what “I’m sorry” communicates). Too often, “I’m sorry” allows the one who sinned to avoid engaging in true repentance for the sin they committed.
Once the offender has been confronted and the sin has been named and forgiveness requested, the one who has been offended is bound by the gospel to extend forgiveness. After all, in salvation I was extended forgiveness, and that becomes my motivation in extending forgiveness to others (Eph.4:32). If you wonder how this might look in something as common as parenting, watch this video clip to see how Dr. Steve Scheibner envisions this reality working in a parent child relationship (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQrSEVp76aM). By the way, Dr. Scheibner will be with us for a “Parenting Matters” seminar in August 2012. Plan to attend (if you miss it, you’ll be sorry)!