Seeking the Forgiveness Of Others

According to Jesus, we need to seek the forgiveness of others whom we have offended. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23,24). In other words, if you have offended someone else, then don’t pretend to worship God if you have not gone to that person first and sought reconciliation. The text is not suggesting that you practice some morbid introspection trying to determine any and all possible ways that you may have offended someone else. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to cause you to “remember,” and it is the offense known by the other party that is to be dealt with. It doesn’t make any difference if the other person offended you more than you offended them. Your purpose for seeking forgiveness is not to get them to own up to their offense. If you wish to be in a right relationship with God, you have to assume responsibility for your own attitudes and actions whether they do or not. Consider the following steps when seeking the forgiveness of others whom you have wronged: First, clarify in your own mind the offense you committed and the attitude behind it. Second, make sure you have already forgiven the person for any wrong on their part. Third, think through the precise wording you will use when asking for their forgiveness. Fourth, label your action as wrong. Fifth, confess only as much detail as necessary for the offended person to understand. Sixth, Make no defenses, alibis, or excuses. Seventh, do not project blame nor confess for another. Eighth, your confession should lead to the direct question: “Will you forgive me?”

Ninth, seek the right place and the right time to approach the offended. Tenth, make your quest for reconciliation in person and face to face. Eleventh, have a responsible third party present if the offense was an immoral indiscretion that could result in legal action. Twelfth, make restitution if it is warranted. Finally, do not document your confession or write a letter. A letter can be easily misread or misunderstood, read by the wrong people, and be kept when it should be destroyed.

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:18). It is not always possible. If they choose not to forgive you then you cannot be reconciled with them, but you are reconciled to God when you have done all that God requires of you. Go in peace.

Dr. Neil

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