I recently listened to a radio interview with co-authors Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas about their book, The Five Languages of Apology (http://www.amazon.com/The-Five-Languages-Apology-Relationships/dp/1881273792). Basically, the gist of the book is that we humans have different languages of apology. Chapman and Thomas say that we need to learn the language of the person to whom we are apologizing: for some it may be expressing regret; for others it’s accepting responsibility; for others it’s making restitution; for others…
As I listened, I thought about how difficult our human relationships are. Each of us sees only part of the big picture—and we see even that part dimly, from the narrow corner of our own perspective—and we relate with fellow humans who do the same. Even when we apologize and “make right” the wrongs we do—in ways that are accepted by the other person—there is restitution to be made and a period of re-connecting and re-establishing relationship and trust. Sometimes this can take a really long time, and sometimes relationships never completely recover. I’ve often thought it’s pure grace for us humans to have any kind of good relationship at all. With our selfish human natures, the odds against that are stacked incredibly high.
The odds are stacked even higher—higher than we could ever reach—in our relationship with God. R.C. Sproul says this about the wrong we have done to God: “No traitor to any king or nation has even approached the wickedness of our treason before God.”*
We have greatly wronged God, and no amount of apologizing will fix it, no matter what language of apology we use.
But Christ fixed it.
He accepted responsibility for wrongs He didn’t commit; He made restitution with His body and blood; He made it right.
NOW we can have peace with God through Christ, through His apology for us.
And here’s the beautiful thing—as if that wasn’t gorgeous enough!: Christ continually grants us peace with God.
I still wrong God daily. I break our fellowship.
But to restore it, I don’t have to worry about figuring out His language of apology. I don’t have to say it just right or do the right amount of penance or wallow in guilt for a certain amount of time.
I’ve certainly tried all those things. I’ve beat myself up and tried to make myself feel “sorry enough” for my failings, but those are not only NOT God’s language of apology; they are counter-productive. They pull me away from Christ rather than to Him. They let me think I can do something to make God like me more.
The only thing I can do is come to God and say, “I blew it. I was wrong. I can’t make it right. But I can do this: I can cling to Christ and what He—and You—did for me!”
And when I simply come to God with sorrow over my sin (even when my repentance is tainted with self-focus, as it always WILL be this side of heaven), He draws me immediately to Himself. He tells me He “blots out and cancels my transgressions,” that He “will not remember them” (Is. 43:25, Jer. 31:34, Heb.8:12 AMP). He promises that His mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-23), and His forgiveness does not come with strings attached. There is no waiting period before I am restored to fellowship with Him. He tells me to “forget what is behind” and “press on” (Philippians 3: 13); He tells me I will not be “confounded or depressed” and I can “forget the shame” (Is. 54:4 AMP).
This is the only relationship in which complete restoration and a fresh new start are possible each and every day, in which I do not have to carry the baggage of my failures and sins.
Instead God encourages me to walk in the freedom of His one language of apology.
*Sproul, R.C. The Holiness of God. Tyndale Publishers, 1985. Quoted from chapter 6, “Holy Justice,” page 151