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.
One of the most difficult things you will ever have to do is asking forgiveness from somebody you have wronged. Yet it is also one of the most liberating things you will ever experience.
How do we go about asking for and receiving forgiveness from people we have wronged? First, you must determine if you really need to ask for forgiveness. Let me illustrate with this story.
For years, Steve had been having lustful thoughts about his best friend’s wife. Every time the two couples were together, Steve would fantasize what it would be like to be married to Barbara. One weekend Steve attended a men’s conference during which the speaker taught about breaking spiritual strongholds in their lives. Realizing that his lust had been a stumbling block for him, Steve decided to deal with it once and for all. So he called his best friend, Rick, and scheduled a time to meet with him and his wife, Barbara. Steve confessed his sin and asked for Rick’s and Barbara’s forgiveness. He could tell they were stunned and embarrassed by his revelation. Barbara quickly excused herself to go help the kids with their homework, and Steve mumbled, “Well, we all have weaknesses.” Steve left feeling relieved. However, he was surprised when Rick and Barbara refused his invitation to dinner the next weekend. In fact, they continued to refuse all invitations. Finally, Rick told Steve the truth: “We are glad that you have dealt with this issue in your life, but Barbara is uncomfortable around you, and we think it would be best if we didn’t see each other for a while.” Steve was shocked and hurt. He had been sincere and transparent with them; why couldn’t they find it in their hearts to forgive him?
Steve had broken one of the cardinal rules of forgiveness: we ask forgiveness only from people we have truly wronged. Steve had certainly wronged God, and he needed God’s forgiveness. But he hadn’t yet wronged his best friend or his best friend’s wife, not in any real sense. And by violating that principle of forgiveness, he caused all kinds of problems.
Jesus taught that the only people we are to be reconciled with are people whom we have wronged and who are aware that we have wronged them. He said in Matthew 5:23-24, “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.” Inherent in the command is not just that you have wronged somebody, but that person is aware of it because he “has something against you.” That is the case in which you need to ask forgiveness.
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.