Do we truly understand how to request forgiveness
biblically? Have we secretly hoped that if we postpone clearing our
conscience with someone, the problem will diminish with time? When
we offend someone, the words'I'm sorry,' or'I apologize,' are not
acceptable phrases. In the 3rd segment of a 19-article
series, Dr. Don Dunlap discusses the scriptural approach to righting
When we neglect God's command to keep a clear conscience
we cannot function properly within the Body of Christ. If we refuse
to humble ourselves and seek forgiveness when we offend someone, we
exert a vast amount of energy in an attempt to maintain our emotional
equilibrium. We work hard to minimize our guilt, justify our actions
and defend our motives.
Our'pre-conversion' offenses still count and we must
make them right.
One commonly held misconception about guilt is
the assumption that we do not need to seek forgiveness for the offenses
that we committed while we were still in an unsaved state. The mistaken
belief is that since God forgave us for all of our sins when
we came to Christ in repentance and faith, our pre-conversion offenses'don't
The truth of the matter is that when we offend someone
we must ask God and the person we offended for forgiveness no matter
how long ago the offense occurred. Genuine repentance is the only
means for the removal of guilt.
We sometimes find that God opens doors of opportunity
to win lost people to Jesus Christ when we care enough to clear our
conscience with them. As we take the initiative to return to them
with a contrite heart, and make a sincere effort to right some long
ago, but not forgotten wrong, we often witness miraculous results'people
want to know this Savior who has led us to them in humility and authentic
Problems do not fade as time passes. They get bigger
and more serious.
Although God's Word instructs us to deal quickly
with guilt resolution, we often choose to procrastinate. We hold out
false hope that by postponing the need to clear our consciences, the
problem will diminish and we will feel less and less guilty as time
passes. The reverse is actually true.
The problem gets worse with the passing of time.
The offended party has the opportunity to grow increasingly bitter
and the offense seems to loom progressively larger in his or her eyes.
Procrastination weakens our consciences because
we must ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit in order to procrastinate.
God expects immediate obedience to His commands. When we refuse to
obey Him promptly, God allows our hearts to harden toward Him and
toward the convicting power of His Word.
Saying'I'm sorry' is not the same as asking for forgiveness.
Most Christians do not understand the biblical
guidelines for requesting forgiveness. One particularly prevalent
deception is the belief that the words'I'm sorry,' or'I apologize'
are acceptable phrases when an offender asks someone else for forgiveness.
These are inadequate approaches.
When we offend someone, we must first demonstrate
genuine repentance and humility by acknowledging our sins.
We should always use the words,
I was wrong.
We should specifically name the offenses that we
committed. Finally, we should ask the question,
Will you please forgive me?
Anything short of this approach is unbiblical and
will not lead to true restoration and reconciliation.
The final deception that Christians widely embrace
is the belief that God requires nothing further of us after we have
asked someone for forgiveness. The notion that we have done our jobs
and have no other duties to fulfill is a false one.
God wants us to use each offense that we commit as
an opportunity for self-examination.
We should search out any hidden offenses that we
may have committed against God and against our fellow man.
God assures us in His Word that when our ways please
Him He will make even our enemies to be at peace with us. We must
be willing to follow through completely on the scriptural directives
for gaining a clear conscience.