In our counseling ministry at Calvary Bible Church, we’ve seen a great need for believers to pursue biblical reconciliation in their relationships. A major part of this process is what we call transactional forgiveness, wherein the offender asks the offended party to forgive them and the offended party verbally grants forgiveness. Our senior pastor developed the following conversation as a model in guiding people through this exchange.
1. Offender: Confess the sin you committed in a contrite and biblical manner.
- Be sure to use biblical terms like “I became sinfully angry,” or “I was self-willed,” or “I lied” or “I was lazy,” or “I was unforgiving,” or “I was rude.”
2. Offender: Explain how you believe it must have hurt or offended the one you sinned against.
- For example: “It must have been humiliating when I spoke sarcastically to you in front of our friends” or “When I raised my voice, you must have felt personally attacked,” or “I realize my behavior gave you cause to distrust me.”
3. Offender: Ask if your assessment of the other person’s thoughts/ feelings on the matter is correct?
- For example: “Is that how I made you feel?” or “Am I in the ‘ballpark’ about what you were thinking at the time?” or “Is this a fair assessment of how my words/actions affected you?”
- NOTE: Putting this in the form of a question invites the offended party to explain his/her perspective on the sin. This is important as the offender often lacks the capacity to fully understand the effects of his sinful behavior upon others.
4. Offended: Answer the offender’s question with loving truthfulness.
- In other words, this is not a license to retaliate against the offender’s sin. It is an opportunity to bring about reconciliation through biblical communication. In answering the offender’s question refrain from rehearsing the past (unless there is a pattern of sinful behavior that has yet to be revealed) or projecting into the future. Remember to “attack the problem, not the person.”
5. Offender: Express sorrow and ask forgiveness.
- Saying “I’m sorry” can be an appropriate and helpful expression of sorrow in the process of reconciliation when accompanied by true transactional confession. For example: “I’m so sorry for hurting you the way I did. I have sinned against God and against you and I need to ask your forgiveness. Will you forgive me?”
- NOTE: Regardless of what else you may say, if you never get around to asking the question “Will you forgive me?” it is not biblical (transactional) forgiveness. Saying “I’m sorry” is not the same as asking for forgiveness, nor is the statement “I apologize.” Neither expresses the reality of being guilty before God and man and so cannot affect biblical reconciliation.
6. Offended: The only biblical response to this questions is, “Yes, I forgive you.”