Schedule an Appointment to Meet the Offended Party

Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.
–James 5:16

Once you have decided that you need to ask forgiveness from a person you have wronged, then you need to schedule an appointment to meet with the offended party.

When you are determining from whom you are going to ask forgiveness, remember this principle: the circle of confession should be no larger than the circle of offense. In other words, if you have sinned only against God, then you need to confess only to God. You don’t need to talk to other people about it. If your sin is against God and one other person, then you need to talk only to God and that one other person. If it’s against two people, then you need to talk to those two people. But your circle of confession should not be larger than the circle of offense. Very rarely would you ever, for example, address an entire congregation. Maybe if a church leader has sinned against an entire congregation, but most of the time that is not beneficial. It doesn’t help the congregation; it hurts the congregation. You confess only to those you have wronged.

The best way to ask forgiveness is in a personal, face-to-face meeting, so you have to arrange the meeting. You call the person and say, “Could we meet on this day at this time at this place? I have something important that I would like to discuss with you.” If the other person tries to pry it out of you, then you say, “It is so important that I want to meet with you personally to talk about it.” If it is impossible to meet with that person face-to-face for some reason, then the next best way to talk to the person is by phone. Now, the problem with the telephone is they can’t see your facial expressions, and you can’t see theirs. You can’t tell for sure how the conversation is going. But if you can’t do it any other way, then the telephone is the next best way. The worst way to ask forgiveness is through a letter, e-mail, text, or tweet. Don’t do that. The purpose of asking forgiveness is to erase the past, not to document the past. You don’t want to write down everything you have done wrong so that person can read it over and over or can forward it to a friend. That is a big mistake. It ought to be face-to-face.

Matthew 5:23-24 tells us we should be willing to do whatever it takes to have that face-to-face meeting. Jesus said, “If you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” According to Jesus, getting matters straight with somebody you have offended is more important than worshipping God. Why is that? Because you can’t worship God fully as long as you know somebody has something against you. Jesus said to do whatever it takes, including leaving in the middle of a church service, and be reconciled to your brother. God will honor somebody with that kind of commitment.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Right Way to Ask Forgiveness from Someone You’ve Wronged” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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