I don’t remember what my daughter had done, but, a couple years ago, we were were having a conversation about disrespect and how there are more appropriate ways to respond to a parent. Eventually, as the conversation was coming to a close, my daughter looked at me and said, “I’m sorry.” Then, I responded the way I always responded to an apology, saying, “That’s alright.”
However, this time the words caught in my throat a bit. I remember thinking, “Wait a minute. That wasn’t alright. It wasn’t alright for her to be disrespectful to me. So, why did I say that?” I walked away from that conversation with those words ringing in my head. As I thought about it longer, I realized I was simply repeating a phrase that had become automatic to me, yet maybe wasn't helpful. It’s unhelpful because it minimizes the sin that was committed. It pretends that the sin committed wasn’t a “big deal.”
Yet, this isn’t true. Sin is a big deal. In Romans 6:23, Paul says, “The wages of sin is death…” Death is a result of our sin. Sin has devastating effects on the person committing the sin and the person sinned against. We should not downplay sin—in our own lives or in the lives of others. We should not pretend like it’s “alright” or like it’s “no big deal.”
And when it wasn't all right with my daughter, I confronted the problem and called out the brokenness in our relationship. We had a conversation, she apologized, and I forgave her. Our relationship was restored and at least on the way to healing. Things weren't all right for a moment, but we mended our fences through confession and forgiveness. Things were now right again.
So in a sense, after our restoration, I could say, "it's alright (now)."
Still, after wrestling through all of this, I concluded a more direct response to someone’s apology would be to say, “I forgive you.” That’s a more powerful way of articulating a response to sin. Forgiveness looks the deadly nature of sin in the face and says, “That was wrong. That was hurtful. Yet, I forgive you and we can move forward.”
This is the power of Christ’s forgiveness. He didn’t downplay the deadliness of sin. He lived the horror and destruction of our sin. He endured beatings, mocking, intense spiritual struggle, crucifixion, and death because of our sin. He didn’t look at our sin and say, “No big deal” or “That’s alright.” No, he acknowledged the depth of sin’s destructiveness and bore that burden so that we could be forgiven. He is also the one who taught us to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).
This is also the power of our forgiveness. Since Christ looked at the horrendous nature of our sinfulness and bore that wrath for our forgiveness, we are now able to look horrendous sin straight in the face and offer forgiveness. We should never downplay sin in order to offer forgiveness. The power of forgiveness only increases as the horrendousness of sin increases.
This has also become an extremely powerful expression in our family. We have fought hard to remove these “automatic phrases” from our apology conversations. When a child sins against us, we have a conversation with them about their sin and the damage that is causes. Then, when they offer an apology, we look them straight in the eyes and say, “I forgive you.” It’s a very powerful moment. We can feel it. Our children can feel it too. There’s something powerful about acknowledging the damaging nature of sin and forgiving it.
We also have worked hard at the way our children respond to apologies. When we sin against our child (which does happen), we approach them and discuss the damage our sin caused. Then we look them in the eye and say, “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” Interestingly enough, when we first started doing this our kids would respond saying, “That’s alright.” Yet, we would say, “No. It wasn’t alright for me to do that. That was wrong. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”
As we’ve been working on this over the years, it has become very natural. At first, it wasn’t. To be honest, it was somewhat awkward (I think we were uncomfortable acknowledging the severity of sin). Yet, it has become part of the typical rhythm of our life. As this has become part of the rhythm of our life, we’ve noticed our family has a weightier perspective of the concepts of sin and forgiveness. We don’t take sin lightly. We don’t take forgiveness lightly either. Ultimately, this rhythm has drawn our family into a greater appreciation for Christ and his sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sin.