How do you respond to someone who has wronged you and comes seeking forgiveness? What do you say when they speak to you with a genuine heartfelt apology? When you forgive, what words do you use?
We have all been on the receiving end of an apology and I have found that I often struggle with how I should respond. Upon reflection, I fear that my natural tendency is to dismiss it as no big deal and I say things like “that’s okay” or “it’s fine.” But, to be honest, it was not okay and it was not fine. What they did was sin and me brushing it off as “no big deal” is not benefiting them.
I am learning that God does not command us to dismiss evil. The proof is in the fact that He Himself is not dismissing their actions but is convicting and leading them to come and make peace with the one they have sinned against. God does not dismiss sin. He confronts it with mercy and grace because He knows that confronting sin is the most loving thing you can do for someone.
God did not find Adam and Eve in the garden and say, “that’s okay” or “it’s no big deal.” He confronted them because gracious confrontation has the potential to save another’s life. James 5:19-20 states:
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
It is not helpful to dismiss another’s wrongdoings. Treating it as if it’s not a big deal can indirectly encourage irresponsibility toward the offender because others may also be saying that it’s not a big deal. This can become a serious problem as we are unintentionally lowering the standard of godliness in each other’s life.
Our response must be that of forgiveness and should be stated, “I forgive you.” This acknowledges the wrong they have done, but it also assures them that the broken fellowship has been restored. It is an appropriate way to acknowledge the sin and will help to remind us that sin is a big deal and should not be minimized.