If someone is mean to me, do they owe me an apology? Growing up, I remember that particular lesson well. If I was mean or hurtful to someone, then I was told that I “owed them an apology.” So apologizing to others is pretty well ingrained in me as good behavior and even better manners, but is it applicable to life as a disciple of Christ?
Did Jesus ask the disciples for an apology?
I can’t recall a single time that Jesus prompted the disciples to give an apology, either to each other or to others. You’d think if He was going to ask for an apology, He’d ask Peter for one after he denied Jesus three times. Nope. He didn’t ask for an apology; He asked Peter if he loved Him instead—and He asked him three times.
Fair enough, so maybe apologies aren’t needed between Jesus and His followers. What about other people then? Once again, Peter provided a pretty perfect opportunity for Jesus to ask him to apologize when he cut off the soldier’s ear. Jesus made Peter stop fighting, and He put the ear back on and healed the soldier, but He didn’t ask Peter to apologize. What does that say about apologies? Does it say anything at all?
Apology vs. Repentance
I don’t think that asking for an apology is necessarily a bad thing; that’s not where I’m going with this. In fact, there might be wisdom in asking a child to apologize when they’re mean or hurtful to someone else, because children are not naturally empathetic. Quite the opposite. I do think that apologizing is the world’s answer to repentance. An apology is a basic acknowledgment of the existence of another person and the hurt they’ve experienced at your hands. That’s all.
I can apologize all day long and never change. I can say ‘I’m sorry’ until I lose my voice and never actually experience so much as a twinge in my conscience. An apology is not indicative of repentance, and it’s repentance that Jesus called for again and again.
Repentance is a heart transaction and a shift in thinking and perception. You can’t fake repentance because the fruit will tell on you every time. If it’s fake, it isn’t repentance. An apology can be the fruit of repentance, but it’s not the only fruit, and if Jesus’ priorities are any indication, it’s not the most important by any means.
Do I have an ingrained demand for an apology when someone wrongs me? I think that I do. And I think that my demand has to be confessed and then surrendered. It’s a demand of my flesh, not a call in my spirit. Which is more important to me: a person’s repentance and reconciliation to God, or a person’s acknowledgment of my personhood and my pain? Until the answer is the first, all day long, then I’m not finished with the Gethsemane work of surrender.
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9 NKJV
Exit question: If I lay down and surrender my demand for an apology, which is a demonic restraint on another, do I then free my persecutor to see me and acknowledge my pain?