Is loving really, never having to say I’m sorry? Reading Luke 1 this morning, that question came to mind. Luke 1:2-3 acknowledges Jesus saying: “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespasses against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.” First off, Jesus is telling us that we are to let others know when they have offended us, but that is not the end of it. Jesus is telling the offender that following a rebuking for an offense (providing the rebuke is valid), the offender is to acknowledge the offense and ask forgiveness for that offense. Yes, from God, for the sins involved; but also from the one against whom the trespass (offense) was perpetrated.
In our relationship, rebuke comes in many ways. Take note that Jesus did not tell the one offended to be soft, like with admonishment, but to rebuke the offended. Where admonishment refers to correction, instruction, training, and critique; rebuke refers to a more bold and critical, if not angry, exclamation, of the wrongness of the offense that may be delivered with some explanation of the expectations of the offended party. Think of Jesus at the temple in Mark 11:15-17. Jesus aggressively rebuked the behavior of the merchants and the priests who allowed the temple to be so desecrated, and He instructed them on the proper use of the temple.
This is the point where the merchants and priests would have done well to ask for forgiveness, but they did not. In Mark 11:18 we are told that instead, the priests consulted their lawyers (teachers of the Law) to figure out a way to kill the Lord. This does not represent repentance, and therefore, based on Jesus’ own principle, the priests would not be forgiven by Him. Of course, the Lord had not yet gone to the cross, so we expect those Jesus rebuked still had a chance to repent and be forgiven.
Getting back to today, think about the types of offenses you experience or perpetrate on others. It is easy to identify how others have offended us, but not as easy to identify or accept that we have offended another. As much as we do not like to be rebuked, there is great benefit in learning of our offensive behaviors from our counterparts. In reality, our built-in selfishness often blinds us to our external behaviors and the offenses they cause.
So how do we know when we are being rebuked? Sometimes, when a rebuke is expressed, we get in the way of understanding it. Earlier we learned that admonishment is more like training or critique and is therefore not so bold and direct that it identifies and offence to one who does not see their behavior as offensive. Repeated admonishments may over time be seen by the offender as nitpicking or nagging. It is more likley that the offender is missing the grace that is being provided by their counterpart. But know this, eventually, the offended party is going to reach the level of rebuke. Unfortunately, they may not express their anger as well as Jesus did at the temple.
In this case, it is better for the offender to recognize that their counterpart has attempted to help them see a different perspective on several occasions, and can take heed of the training. For example: when a supervisor at work explains on several occasions how a task is to be completed, but one continuously does it the way they want, things may eventually raise the level of rebuke. In a marriage, it may come down to your spouse trying to help you understand that a behavior of yours makes them feel neglected, disrespected, or violated, but you have not paid attention to their signals. The same may also be true in other family relationships or friendships.
Eventually, your counterpart is going to rebuke you. Your boss may give you a warning in a coaching meeting, your spouse may cry in hopelessness, speak with restrained frustration, leave you a note because they do not want to argue, or may just tell you what you have done and expect you to react favorably. You can expect your extended family and friends to act about the same.
At that moment, you will have the choice to hear their position, accept your offense against them, acknowledge their expectations, and ask for forgiveness; or simply acknowledge their escalation from admonishment to rebuke as nothing more than, more of the same. It is always better to look outside of yourself, consider what your counterpart has and is telling you, accept your part in any offense, and say “I AM SORRY”
In considering the value of apology and repentance, according to Jesus, understand this: If the offender cannot repent, non-forgiveness on the part of the offended party is justified. I have found over my years of counseling that the most common reason that people part ways is because the offenders cannot humble themselves enough to understand their offense and look their counterparts in the eyes and admit that they were wrong. Do you want to save your job, marriage, family relationships, and friendships?
Be humble enough to repent and say “I AM SORRY."