This is a subject I will keep coming back to because I believe it is so important that we get this right if we are going to see healthy gospel churches. They are “sorry” and “forgive”.
Elton John sung that “sorry seems to be the hardest word.” It shouldn’t be should it. We know that we are finite. We know that we are affected by the fall so that even in Christ we still sin. We are instructed to confess our sin and so it is clear that this is something believers will face. The New Testament even highlights the ways that apostles like Paul and Barnabas could fall out or ~Peter could slip into supporting the Judaizers. This reminds us that only Christ is sinless. So, we shouldn’t find it hard to say sorry.
Forgive is also a hard word to say isn’t it? However, the Lord’s prayer links our forgiveness to our willingness to forgive others. We know that we are all sinners so we should know that others fail. We know that we ourselves are forgiven creatures, dependent upon grace. So, it should be so natural to say “I forgive you”.
I think we struggle with those words because they are control words by which I mean that they have a lot of power to enable control over others by using them, hearing them used or withholding them. Please don’t use them like that. Use them as intended to enable reconciliation and restoration. Use them to express love.
What this also mean that we should be quick to repent and swift to forgive. To be sure, this may not mean that we are able to resolve everything but these words at least open up the possibility of doing that. So, don’t have an apology dragged out of you and if you have been apologised to then don’t leave someone hanging waiting for forgiveness.