True Confessions

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Last November I wrote a post called, “Preemptive Forgiveness.” In it I suggested that Jesus’ model on the cross was to offer forgiveness to those who were in the very act of sinning against him—and that we are likewise called to offer forgiveness even before confession takes place.

Throughout Scripture, God reveals Himself as the initiator of grace. Nowhere is this more evident than in Jesus’ crucifixion; Paul states it beautifully in Romans 5:8—”but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (emphasis added). Following Jesus’ example means that we must also be initiators of grace.

But forgiveness is only one side of the equation.

Relationships are two sided, and broken relationships are not restored only by forgiveness. Not even the relationship between a person and God. Those who say that Jesus’ death and resurrection bring reconciliation to all humanity are preaching a universalism that denies Scripture.

Reconciliation—whether between God and persons, or between two individuals—demands not only forgiveness, but also confession.

Without confession, there is no possibility for reconciliation. (Tweet this.)

Confession says, “I was wrong.” It is one of the most humbling statements we can make. But even confession is not one dimensional. “I was wrong” is a start, but not a finish. In many marriage conferences, I’ve been taught that the most important words I can say to my wife are, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me.” According to Gary D. Chapman and Jennifer M. Thomas, though, there is still more!

In their book, When Sorry Isn’t Enough, Chapman and Thomas discuss five aspects of a healthy apology:

  • expressing regret (“I’m sorry”)
  • accepting responsibility (“I was wrong”)
  • making restitution (“how can I make it right?”)
  • genuine repentance (“I want to change”)
  • requesting forgiveness (“Can you find it in your heart…?”; or, in my words, “please forgive me”)

The authors suggest that each of us needs to hear one or two of these statements more than the others. For some, “I’m sorry” is sufficient; others need the hope of change.

In the same way, we probably tend to use one of these statements over the others—even if it’s not what the other person needs to hear. Sometimes that can do more harm than good.

True, full confession, however, demands all five: genuine regret, responsibility, restitution, repentance, and requesting forgiveness.

What do you need to hear when you have been hurt? Does your spouse or other close friend know this? What do they need to hear from you?

Maybe this is a good topic of conversation for this evening.

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