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DocReits May 22, 2015 at 12:28 am

Hi Dr Williams,

I disagree with your definitions of apology and forgiveness. I understand you are taking a high definition of the word apology when you state,

“the word apology means “without the Word.” This makes an apology only appropriate when no Biblical offense has taken place.”

This is the 21st century though and the word apology has come to be defined as , ” an admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret “(Merriam/Webster)

An apology is offered therefore often without the expectation of forgiveness. In fact it often does not come with forgiveness from the other side. We would expect forgiveness from Christians but even in this quarter forgiveness is often hard to come by. An example would be the official apology from the Catholic Church regarding pedophilia among some of their priests. The Catholic Church was sued by many who were harmed, in civil court…a sign of un-forgiveness.

An apology is a sign of regret then even when it involves a Biblical offense. It shows remorse on the part of the offender. The next step, after the apology(expression of remorse) is to seek forgiveness.

Further you state that forgiveness is a contract, “Forgiveness involves a two-way transaction between the individuals. The offender(s) humbles themselves and ask for forgiveness and the person who was offended grants forgiveness.” I submit that forgiveness is often a one way street. The Bible clearly states that, “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.”(Mark 11:25).

This obviously does not involve asking forgiveness or granting forgiveness from/to the person you offended or offended you, but to offer your forgiveness before God. Granted we are to leave our gift at the altar and be reconciled to our brother, if possible, but often this is impossible. What if the one who offended us is dead? In another article I recently posted about the best quote on forgiveness I have ever heard, “True forgiveness is accepting the apology you will never receive”.



Dr. Michael L Williams May 22, 2015 at 12:51 pm

Thanks for the comment DocReits. I am taking the linguistic original meaning of the word apology. Even Webster’s alludes to an apology not being appropriate when wrongdoing has occurred. In the top definitions they use the words: a. “a formal justification b. excuse. They list the top two synonyms as: alibi and excuse. Nowhere do any of their descriptions of the word allude to a confession of wrongdoing except in the social sense which changes with time.

The example of anyone apologizing for molestation demonstrates where they were Biblically and theologically wrong. Using the words, “I apologize” really does not communicate an asking for forgiveness. A public confession and asking for forgiveness is necessary. People that I have counseled that were molested in New Mexico by religious workers who molested in other states were livid when they heard the apology. They saw the apology as a statement to get it over and not hold anyone accountable.

Likewise, look at Webster’s antonyms of the word conservative. They describe someone who is “narrow minded” and “not open minded” amongst other things. It leaves you with the impression that conservatives are stupid and intolerant. This is why I look at the historic etymology of the word which is most often reflected in dictionaries from ancient times. (Even Webster’s 1828 has some words with newer meanings as the second or third entry.)

The point I was making is that words tend to get changed over time and the original meanings are lost along with their theological importance. This is often seen with many newer translations of the Bible. This is also part of the reason that many people have redefined Biblical concepts. A perfect example is the word repentance. In the Greek and the English, the etymology of the word repentance is a change of mind. However, some modern day Christians have redefined repentance to mean turning from sin. There should be a turning from sin when your mind changes (repentance). However, if we include turning from sin in the definition, then God is a sinner in over 30 verses in the Bible! (See KJV Exodus 32:14; Jonah 3:9-10; Romans 11:29; Hebrews 7:21 for examples).

Using apologies instead of asking for forgiveness, robs the wrongdoer of the opportunity to confess their sin and make true reconciliation at the level of the heart. In counseling, it is amazing how tender the mood can become when I walk two people, especially married couples, through the process of asking and receiving forgiveness when they have done nothing but apologize for years. Everyone in the room, including me, ends up in tears and hearts are turned to the Lord.

Thanks so much for your comments. I hope that through these examples, people will seek the deep things of God and not let modern society redefine His words. Blessings.

DocReits May 23, 2015 at 3:23 pm

Great illustrations and I thank you fore your kind reply. My point was that we live in society today and we need to deal with the understanding of the way our culture understands these terms, such as the word “apology”. I understand about apologetic’s using the base word apology to mean a defense, so I get your point. But to make an apology today means to express regret. As my daughter says, “just deal with it dad”. So go with me a moment here.

I relate many things to my life experiences with my children.

They would often say, “sorry, sorry, please forgive me” when they had offended or hurt someone. This was often just to avoid punishment without the heartfelt contrition or acknowledgement of how much their grievance had hurt the one they offended.

I would stop them and say, “No! You apologize right now!!” The idea I was trying to convey was that they needed to acknowledge the pain they caused and to exhibit remorse for their action. Not remorse because of being caught or for the punishment they might receive, but regret and remorse for the pain they had caused another.

This, IMO, is missing from your article. This is done in the way of a sincere apology( the exhibition of remorse). Once remorse is in play, then all else follows in your article. That is, the avenue is then open for forgiveness.

Without this fundamental step, seeking forgiveness often has no real meaning.

Thank you for your consideration,


Anonymous September 23, 2018 at 9:36 am

I’m incredibly confused. I want to reconcile with my pastors family, but I really dont know how to go about it. Basically the pastors children (college age) came to me and said I was barely tolerable, and blocked me on social media, and I really dont know why, but this event triggered schizoaffective disorder in me (delusions and hallucinations). The pastor brought this to the elders first without talking to me, and they all told him I didn’t do anything wrong. I tried talking to the pastor and he said I need to take responsibility for myself and it’s hard to love my neighbor when I dont love myself and my actions have consequences, but outside of being annoying, I dont know what my actions were that caused such a rift, and the pastor wont express it…so if nobody can tell me what I did wrong, how can I repent? How can we reconcile?

Jack Wellman September 23, 2018 at 9:49 am

It appears you have done all you can, so just put this behind you and try not to bring it up again. I am saddened by their lack of humility and willingness to discuss this with you. Have you spoken with your doctors over this schizoaffective disorder? There may be treatment for it. If the elders said you did nothing wrong, then just put it behind you and go from here. At least you tried. That’s more than some people do, so there is no need to repent of it. Its over, it sounds like.

Anonymous December 5, 2019 at 5:35 pm

Yes I went to mental health for several months and received medication…however I had left the church…it is much more complicated than my original text. The pastor would not allow me back to bible studies, only main service and men’s breakfast…I asked if I did anything to hurt anybody and he said he didn’t feel slighted…he said there’s no animosity and they care about me, but with the blocking after our meeting it certainly felt like there was animosity or something. I was (and still am) very confused…but I definitely tried my part…twice.

Jack Wellman December 5, 2019 at 6:11 pm

That is so sad my friend that they blocked you like that. That pastor and church sinned in what they did. I understand why you’re confused my friend. I am so sorry for such a terrible experience. God is no respecter of persons, so they shoudn’t be either, so you did nothing wrong. This sin is on them. I will pray for you sir or ma’am.

Anonymous December 6, 2019 at 2:00 am

If it helps…he cited Henry Cloud’s Boundaries as his reason–though to be fair, when we discussed the pastor had no idea his son had verbally insulted me…nonetheless very confusing. This led to a lot of research of Henry Cloud…and at least from my perspective…it seems very off on all accounts.

Darlene Brown December 7, 2019 at 9:39 am

Thank You

Jack Wellman December 6, 2019 at 11:04 am

I need all the help I can get my friend…still learning and a work in progress. Thank you.

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