I guess everyone already knows about Gary Chapman and his 5 Love Languages. But have you heard of his 5 Love Languages of apologies?
I want to focus on two of them that I think are important, because I don’t want people to think that just saying “I’m sorry” is good enough.
Here they are (straight out of his book):
Apology Language #3: Making Restitution
In the public arena, our emphasis upon restitution is based upon our sense of justice. The one who commits the crime should pay for the wrongdoing. In contrast, in the private sphere of family and other close relationships, our desire for restitution is almost always based upon our need for love. After being hurt deeply, we need the reassurance that the person who hurt us still loves us.
“How could they love me and do that?” is the question that lingers in our minds. The words “I’m sorry; I was wrong” may not be enough.
For some people, restitution is their primary apology language. For them the statement, “It is not right for me to have treated you that way,” must be followed with “What can I do to show you that I still care about you?” Without this effort at restitution, this person will question the sincerity of the apology. They will continue to feel unloved even though you may have said, “I am sorry; I was wrong.” They wait for the reassurance that you genuinely love them.
The question, then, is how do we make restitution in the most effective way? Since the heart of restitution is reassuring the spouse or family member that you genuinely love him or her, it is essential to express restitution in the love language of the other person.
[…]If restitution is the primary apology language of an individual, then this becomes the most important part of the apology. “I’m sorry; I was wrong” will never be taken as sincere if these words are not accompanied by a sincere effort at restitution. They wait for the assurance that you still genuinely love them. Without your effort to make amends, the apology will not have the desired results of forgiveness.
Apology Language #4: Genuinely Repenting
The word repentance means “to turn around” or “to change one’s mind.” In the context of an apology, it means that an individual realizes that his or her present behavior is destructive. The person regrets the pain he or she is causing the other person, and he chooses to change his behavior.
Without genuine repentance, the other languages of apology may fall on deaf ears. What people who’ve been hurt want to know is, “Do you intend to change, or will this happen again next week?”
How then do we speak the language of repentance?
It begins with an expression of intent to change. When we share our intention to change with the person we have offended, we are communicating to them what is going on inside of us. They get a glimpse of our heart—and this often is the language that convinces them we mean what we say.
The second step down the road of repentance is developing a plan for implementing change.Often apologies fail to be successful in restoring the relationship because there is no plan for making positive change.
The third step down the road of repentance is implementing the plan. Following through with the plan gives evidence to the offended party that your apology was sincere.
Most people do not expect perfection after an apology, but they do expect to see effort.
Thus, expressing your desire to change and coming up with a plan is an extremely important part of an apology to this person. Inviting the offended person to help you come up with a plan for change is perhaps the best way to effectively show repentance.
Here are some practical tips that I recommend to someone who has done something morally wrong and who wants to apologize.
To fix the problem you need more than talk
To me, the only thing that needs an apology is breaking a moral rule – you can’t beat someone up for just making a mistake. Whenever someone breaks a moral rule with me, like disrespecting me or being selfish, then I pick out a book for them to read and ask them to read it and then write something about how what they learned in the book applies to what they did to me. I don’t pick very long books! But I do this for a very important reason.
The very important reason is that I don’t trust people who just agree with me. I don’t trust people’s words. If someone is really sorry about something, then I want them to read something that describes the moral rule that they broke, and to be willing to listen to the feelings of the person they harmed by breaking that rule. That goes a long way in my mind.
Many of you will know about a very successful pick-up artist named RooshV. Roosh has many written books about how to bed women in different countries. But something funny happened recently… Roosh converted to Orthodox Christianity (large O). I blogged about it, and I was very cautious, but also hopeful. Well, some time has passed since that first blog post, and there is some big news.
In May of last year I unpublished 11 of my books because they were leading men directly to sin. That action was not enough. Today I have unpublished several more books, including my top seller Game, along with numerous articles, videos, podcasts, and forum postings.
The prospect of banning Game last May was too difficult, even though my conscience was bothered by the contents… It made sense to ban all my Bang books, which explicitly instructed men how to have casual sex, and it wasn’t that hard on my wallet since they were older books that had passed their sales peak, but if I were to ban Game as well, my income would be wiped out. I prayed on the issue, asking God to help me make the right decision.
He explains that “Game” is a recent book that is his biggest source of income, but he didn’t like what was in it:
The book… trained and steered men for the main purpose of achieving bodily pleasure through casual sex. In some ways, it even wired men’s brains to view women as objects to be won purely through knowledge, effort, and physical attractiveness. Even my book Day Bang, which has no sexual content, trained men to see women as objects to be won for pleasurable ends through the mathematics of approaching a lot of women in the hopes of finding one who was horny and loose. When faced with a hard life decision, I would pray for guidance, but this decision was easy: the books had to go.
Now, I don’t think that Roosh is saying that all women are just wonderful and pure as the driven snow. I think he would agree with me when I say treat good women well – good women who love God, and prefer good men to bad ones. For the ones who prefer bad men and don’t want God, just avoid them. It’s never OK to treat any woman as “prey” or objectify them. They’re made to know God too, just like the men, and we need to treat them like that.
I really like this part below. We should all be thankful that God doesn’t ask us for more than we can bear. Because Jesus lived among us, he understands our weaknesses. The Holy Spirit draws us gently, letting us choose to resist his leading or to not resist it:
[…]I lament more the colossal amount of time I wasted on these works than monies lost.
Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? —Mark 8:34-37
It’s worth noting how patient God was by not compelling me to complete a change I couldn’t handle. The first round of book unpublishing felt exceedingly stressful, and I wrestled with the issue for many days. God saw my distress and allowed my conscience to remain clear upon banning only some of the books, which still fell short of His expectations. He let me complete the [speaking] tour with no worries about where my future income would come from. Once the tour was completed, and I rested for a month, he deemed me ready for the next step. He enlightened a fellow Christian to help re-activate my conscience, and then allowed me to complete the job of removing the rest of my books when I was spiritually stronger and more able to handle the prospect of not earning a sufficient income. This time around, I was only mildly afflicted for one night before becoming overjoyed at the prospect of making an honest living. I’m happy to announce my retirement as a peddler of sex.
Isn’t it crazy to think that someone is taking the Bible seriously on issues that will cause him so much financial distress? But that’s how God is. God isn’t our cosmic butler, or our boyfriend. Jesus says that he wants to be number one in our hearts, and that if we desire other things more than we desire him, then we can’t have him. Roosh’s thorough repentance is a pretty rare thing to find, even among many “conservative” Christians. It’s certainly a challenge for me to be that good. How did Roosh re-prioritize his life so well after a life of recreational sex? Because God reached out to him, just like Paul said in Acts 17:24-27. We are saved by grace, and not through our own efforts.
In the rest of his post, he explains what practical adjustments he is going to make so that he is able to keep his conscience clear. Men are good at making ends meet so that we can be who we really are, and not compromise our convictions. We don’t allow our feelings to distract us, so that we end up in a place where it is too difficult to keep to our principles.
We should always be thankful when someone turns back to Christ after a time away. People who turn back to God can have strong convictions and make a huge difference. It shows the power of God to transform those who have turned away from him. Whenever things look grim in the world, always remember that God has the power to lead non-Christians to repentance. Hope is never lost, God is always actively seeking a relationship with every single one of us.
By the way, it would be worth it for you to ask God to continue to lead Roosh, and to make a difference to the people who respect him. He has a large following, and now Roosh has something even better for them than what he had for them before. It’s good for a man to control himself so that he can turn off his selfishness and kind to a good woman. It’s good for a man to stop grading women with his eyes, and instead look to help the ones who are open to turning away from themselves to instead grow in their faith. Ignore the bad ones, help the ones who are willing to serve God.
Kevin Lewis, a professor of Theology and Law at the conservative Biola University, was asked this question:
Recently, I was reading Dr. Kenneth Bailey’s “Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes” (IVP press 2008). When commenting on Matthew 6:12-13, he writes,
“It is a common human assumption that the violator of the rights of others must ask for forgiveness before the wronged party can be expected to accept the apology and grant forgiveness…But Jesus here asks the person wronged to forgive the one responsible for the wrongdoing when when there is no confession of guilt… There is a voice from the cross that echoes across history to all saying ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do.’ Neither Pilate nor the high priest nor the centurion offered any apology to Jesus, yet he prayed for divine forgiveness…(p.125)”
First, regarding God and His forgiveness, it is undisputed in orthodox Christian theology that God does not forgive everyone. The doctrine of Hell is a sufficient proof of the lack of universal forgiveness by God.
Next, it is clear that God does not forgive without repentance. This doctrine is taught in a number of texts. For example, in Luke 13:3 Jesus says, “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” In Mark 1:15 John the Baptist commands that we must “repent and believe the Gospel.” The connection between repentance and forgiveness of sins (i.e. “salvation”) is seen throughout the Scriptures. For example, in Acts 2:38 repentance is directly connected as a condition for the remission of sins. For additional examples of this connection see Matthew 11:20-24; Luke 24:45-49; Acts 3:19; 8:22; 17:30-31; Romans 2:4-5; II Corinthians 7:10; II Tim. 2:25-26.
So since we are to be imitators of God and forgive in the same way God forgives, we would expect the Scriptures to be consistent, stating that the condition of repentance is required to be fulfilled before believers are required to forgive each other’s sins. It does.
Jesus stated in Luke 17:3, “If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” Here, the meaning is clear. The word “if” (Grk. ean) introduces the condition for a rebuke and for granting forgiveness. If (subjunctive) a person sins, we must (imperative) rebuke him, and if (subjunctive) he repents, we must (imperative) forgive him. This is as clear a statement as you will find on the subject. Forgiveness is conditioned upon repentance—and this is one of the same criteria that God requires before He forgives sin.
This principle of permitting believers to withhold forgiveness unless the condition of repentance is satisfied is also explicitly seen in Matthew 18:15-17. Compared with the Luke 17:3 text above, the situation is the same. If a brother sins, reprove him; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. Here, the word “reprove” is used rather than “rebuke” and the word “listen” is employed rather than “repent,” but the meaning is virtually identical to Luke 17:3. What we see in Matthew 18 is an escalation of the issue and the result if the person fails to repent (i.e. “listen”). If the person fails to repent, we are to shun him in all appropriate ways (v. 17).
[…]Finally, I would make the case that it is harmful to a person to forgive him without requiring repentance. As seen above, the Bible is clear that sin requires a rebuke. Ignoring sin teaches sinners that sin does not bring consequences. This is harmful to their souls. Continuing to have the benefit of a righteous relationship with another and yet remain in sin against that person results in fostering a habituation of sinful inclinations in their soul, which God says brings about suffering and death.
Moreover, since the ultimate purpose of forgiveness is reconciliation, it is meaningless and harmful to forgive when no reconciliation may be had with the sinner. We cannot “walk together” in a biblical manner in righteous peace when the unrepentant sinner walks in unrighteousness. Necessarily, there is a conflict and a want of shalom. Their soul is headed in a different direction than the believer’s soul; they are walking away from God and we cannot have fellowship with darkness. God has no intimate fellowship with unrepentant people, and that is the model for Christians as well (See Matt. 18).
Regarding personal anger issues commonly raised by Christian psychologists, these types of psychologists unbiblically make unconditional forgiveness a part of therapy. By contrast, however, if a counselee will not forgive after the offending party has truly repented, the counselee sins, and this kind of unforgiveness may be one of the causes of his or her problems. But this is a separate issue from universal and unconditional forgiveness raised above.
Human beings in the image of God may be angry in appropriate ways (Eph.4:26, 31). There is a time to love and a time to hate (Ecclesiastes 3:8). The notion that Christians cannot ever hate, be angry, or lack forgiveness is an unbiblical concept. God Himself is eternally angry with sin, but He is certainly not a psychological basket case. He loves, hates, and is angry in appropriate ways. Our task as believers is to imitate this. Be angry with and hate sin appropriately (Rom. 12:9) and love what good appropriately. For example, righteous anger can evolve beyond the biblical limits to become malice, slander, and bitterness while, to give another example, an appropriate love of food can evolve beyond the biblical limits into gluttony.
I agree with Kevin, and I think it is a helpful tool for people to insist on seeing some sort of repentance and restitution from someone who wrongs you before you trust them again. If they are not even sorry for what they’ve done, and they refuse to explain why what they did is wrong, then they can’t be forgiven, and you can’t trust them again.
9 And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:
10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’
13 But the tax collector,standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’
14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
So again, no forgiveness without repentance.
Forgiveness is what happens when someone who is sinned against treats the sinner as if he had never sinned. It is not on the balance sheet. It is not brought to mind. It is not held against them in the future. The forgiver trusts the sinner again as if the previous sin had never happened.
In divine (vertical) forgiveness, there is no forgiveness without repentance. There are Bible verses above to show that.
My argument is twofold. First, there is a clear teaching of Jesus explaining the sequence of sin and forgiveness. Repentance precedes forgiveness, between humans (Luke 17:3). The verses cited by the forgive without repentance crowd don’t show the mechanics of how to forgive, they are making the point that if you want God to forgive you, you should forgive others. The parable in Luke 18:9-14 affirms this again – repentance always precedes forgiveness.
Second, we have an obligation to imitate God, and that means imitating the way he forgives those who sin against him. When I raise that with the unconditional forgiveness crowd, they want to insist that there is a difference, that the word “forgive” means different things. I’m not convinced.
Finally, I do think that forgiving someone is obligatory if they sincerely repent, and even if they screw up again and again. So long as the repentance is sincere, (like if there is restitution and a genuine effort to show an understanding how the sin affected the wronged party in writing), then forgiveness should be automatic.
Alan E. Kurschner argues that there is serious textual doubt about the originality of Luke 23:34a, a text used by the pro-unconditional-forgiveness crowd. He has a journal article coming out on it, but a synopsis of his argument is here.
He also wrote this in a comment on this blog:
Second, on Matt 6:15, this is what I have to say. Notice the then-clause: “neither will your Father forgive your sins.” This would require universalism on the Father’s part according to the unconditional interpretation given the first half: “But if you do not forgive others their sins.” Since everyone has wronged the Father is the Father required to forgive everyone even if they are not seeking forgiveness?
So I think the case for the forgiveness being conditional on repentance is pretty strong, especially when serious harm has been caused.