Posted by: mikenicholsblog | April 13, 2016

the vertical controlling the horizontal

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” is a famous line from the movie Love Story (a blockbuster hit from 1970). While everyone may have heard the line, I’m sure almost no one believes it. Children are taught early in life to mouth the words, “I’m sorry.” Married couples know that unless they are willing to admit wrongs with, “I’m sorry,” deep wounds will assuredly emerge. In fact, all good earthly relationships should be laced with words that admit wrong and, correspondingly, words which convey forgiveness. I am sure you would agree with me that it is sometimes hard to say, “I’m sorry,” and even harder to truly forgive.

Years ago I remember speaking with someone who was emotionally depleted. In our discussion it became clear that forgiveness needed to be given. However, the pain was deep! The offender had passed away, but my friend still needed the freedom which only true forgiveness can gift. In ways too numerous to count, we have all been offended. We have also been the offender. Think about your life, even today. Are there people around you now (or maybe from your past) who create strife within you … even from simply speaking or hearing their name? There is a place within all of us which wants people to pay for what they have done. But the response of Christ-followers should be patterned after the One who first forgave us.

Be alert. If you see your friend going wrong, correct him. If he responds, forgive him. Even if it’s personal against you and repeated seven times through the day, and seven times he says, ‘I’m sorry, I won’t do it again,’ forgive him.”  The apostles came up and said to the Master, “Give us more faith.
Luke 17:3-5 (MSG)

If you and I are honest, when someone hurts us the easiest road to take is one that involves holding a grudge and letting others know about the offense. But Jesus says our response should be altogether different.  We are to privately confront the issue and if our offender says, “I’m sorry,” forgive them. Jesus also challenges us to walk the second mile in continuing, ”Even if it’s personal against you and repeated seven times through the day, and seven times he says, ‘I’m sorry, I won’t do it again,’ forgive him.”

I believe we should create a habit of forgiving even before it is requested. There are times when a friend or family member hurts us unknowingly.  Sometimes they know, but they’ll never admit it. Sometimes forgiveness is easier said than accomplished.  In all of it, our choice is simple (whether you feel that way or no): forgive and release the person or hold a grudge and carry a burden.

It’s interesting the apostles responded to Christ, “Give us more faith.” To me, their comment suggests that forgivers need to trust God with the consequences. Knowing we can trust Him with the results (by faith) makes forgiveness more reasonable. No matter how painful, you and I can be secure in God’s design that forgiveness is always the right choice. He will give us the faith needed to forgive!

Sometimes we offend others, and sometimes others offend us. In both cases, we know what to do. The right choice won’t always be easy, but if our vertical relationship with the Father is controlling our horizontal relationship with others, “I’m sorry,” and, “you’re forgiven,” will be a core part of our vocabulary. And don’t forget:

Love means always being willing to say, “I’m sorry” and “You’re forgiven!”


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