Here’s a textbook example of how to ask for forgiveness
3 min read
If you grew up in a househould where apologies flowed freely, you are blessed. You got to see what one looks like and hear what one sounds like. However, if you grew up in an environment where apologies happened rarely, if at all, two things are probably true: (1) You don’t know how to apologize; and (2) You’re not convinced it’s necessary.
Since no one’s perfect (except Jesus), offenses are bound to happen. We’re going to hurt people. We all have the occasional bad day. We all behave poorly from time to time. As James 3:2 reminds us, “…we all stumble in many ways…”
Ideally, if we’re growing in God’s grace, it won’t happen as often as it used to. But even mature believers will find themselves occasionally needing to swallow their pride and offer a needed apology.
Our relationships – whether we’re talking about a friendship, a family relationship, or a marriage – absolutely depend on this important movement. That’s why Jesus touched on it in the Sermon on the Mount, and why the apostles repeated it.
But to see and hear what a good apology looks like in real life, let’s consider another scene from the life of David…
In 2 Samuel 19, David is returning to Jerusalem after being betrayed and ousted by his son, Absalom. Tragically, Absalom was killed in battle but his death made the coast clear for David to return to Jerusalem and resume his rightful rule as king. As David crosses the border at the Jordan River, there’s a particular man by the name of Shimei there to kindly receive him.
The irony here is that Shimei had met David at the same spot previously, when David was making his emergency exit (2 Samuel 16:6-9). He wasn’t nice to him then. In fact, Shimei cursed David and threw rocks at him the whole way as David was chased out of town.
Apparenlty, Shimei was having a bad day.
But as the tables turned and David made his triumphant return, Shimei was the first to speak:
…As the king was about to cross the river, Shimei fell down before him. 19 “My lord the king, please forgive me,” he pleaded. “Forget the terrible thing your servant did when you left Jerusalem. May the king put it out of his mind. 20 I know how much I sinned. That is why I have come here today, the very first person in all Israel to greet my lord the king.” -2 Samuel 19:18-20
Look closely at Shimei’s statement and notice it has all the elements of a sincere apology:
- It’s humble. He set aside his pride and came low to the person he had offended.
- It’s to the point. No beating around the bush. Shimei needed David to give him another chance, so he asked for it.
- It’s non-excusing. He owned his bad behavior and took full responsibility.
You might say, “Well, Shimei had to apologize or David would have killed him.” Not necessarily. David didn’t operate that way. What is more likely is that Shimei simply realized that he was wrong and treated David inappropriately, so he took the steps to make it right. He took responsibility for his behavior and asked David to forgive him.
And, of course, David did forgive him. Just as God had done for him, David showed mercy to Shimei. No questions asked. No probationary period. Later, when Shimei dared to revert back to his old ways, it would not go well for him (1 Kings 2:8-9), but for now, much to his relief, his humble apology helped restore a broken relationship.
Our relationships – whether we’re talking about a friendship, a family relationship, or a marriage – absolutely depend on this important movement.
One of the scary things about asking forgiveness, though, is that we don’t know exactly how the person will respond. What if they scream at us? What if they slam the door? What if they raise their hand?
But, on the other hand, what if they embrace us and say, I’ve needed forgiveness before and I’m sure I’ll need it again. So, I forgive you. Thanks for your apology.
It’s a new day with God. Run with it.