Another one of those basic things about the Christian life is how to put things right. If we do not know how to seek forgiveness from one another, we can get ourselves into unnecessary tangles. And the devil loves to fish in troubled water, so if you are not putting things right regularly with one another, more troubles are guaranteed to come.
When my husband and I were first married, we were surprised to find out that we occasionally bumped into one another. We called them bumps, but you may call them offenses or collisions, or whatever. No matter what you call them, they create a break in the fellowship. We had not had a single bump during our engagement, so it was a new experience. We learned that it was essential that we get back into fellowship as soon as possible, so we established a few household rules for ourselves. After applying these rules diligently, we found that eventually they came to be second-nature for us. Here they are.
First we agreed that if we had a bump, we would put it right as soon as possible. For example, if we had collided over the checkbook, we agreed that we could get back into fellowship even if we had not sorted out the checkbook mistake. It does not take long to say, “I was wrong. Please forgive me for being annoyed” and “You are forgiven.” Then we could be back in fellowship with one another while we sorted things out. And the fellowship cannot wait, though the checkbook can.
We also agreed that we would not let people into our house if we were not in fellowship, which meant leaving them on the front doorstep if necessary. We would not go into someone else’s home, or even get out of the car, unless we had restored any broken fellowship. We would not go to bed out of fellowship, and Doug would not leave for work if we were not in fellowship. We were pretty stringent about these things, and I cannot begin to tell you the tremendous blessing this has been for our marriage.We learned we could get back into fellowship quickly, and we also learned that being out of fellowship with one another is intolerable, even for a few minutes.
When our children were growing up, we insisted on the same thing with them. If we spoke harshly to them, we put it right, now. Sometimes people feel hypocritical putting things right just after the sin. But think of it this way. If you fell on your face out in front of a crowd, would you just lie there hoping they didn’t notice? No. Would you say you were too embarrassed to get up? No. You would hop up as fast as you physically were able. So sin should be taken care of the same way.
The apology should always be as public as the sin. If we sinned at the dinner table, we put it right at the dinner table. If we sinned in front of one kid, we put it right with that one kid. This kind of policy affects how often you want to sin, let me tell you. It just is not worth it. If you put things right, it has the same effect as discipline. It is not fun. So you watch your step more and you keep things picked up.
To illustrate this principle, my husband uses the example of a home where things are picked up compared to a home where things are knee deep. In both homes people drop things on the floor. But in the one home they are picked up right away. In the other home, things accumulate until you just can’t even see the floor and you have no idea where or how to begin. In the first home, having a pick-up policy not only keeps the house clean, but it acts as a a deterrent on how much stuff is dropped. Of course no home will be perfect. Things get dropped and can be picked up every day. But if you let things pile up, you can hit the point where you just don’t care anymore. And many people just walk away rather than face the consequences of picking up years of junk.
The Bible says that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us of all our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we step out and begin to seek forgiveness for specific offenses, God will bring more to mind. As we keep confessing, He scrubs off the layers of dirt, we experience real cleansing, and our hearts are washed.We are restored, put right with God and put right with one another.
One of the important things to remember when you are seeking forgiveness is to name the sin the way the Bible names it. Don’t say, “I’m sorry if I did anything to hurt you.”Â Rather say, “Please forgive me for my rude comment. That was unkind.” Don’t say, “I’m sorry for saying those things. I didn’t mean it.” Rather say, “Please forgive me for saying you’re a jerk. I was the one being a jerk.” Don’t say, “Sorry for getting into your purse, Mom. I meant to ask but I forgot.” Rather say, “Mom, I stole ten bucks from your purse. Please forgive me.”