Pastor Dave, Kids 4 Truth Advisor/Volunteer
Why when we say, “Sorry,” do we also have to ask for forgiveness when we know that the person will say, “Yes, I forgive you,” because they have to?
Thanks for writing K4T. That is a good question. I am going to assume that this is something that happens at home, right? It is familiar because I see it happening in lots of homes. One kid does something nasty to another. That one tells Mom or Dad or is caught in the act and the parent says: "Now you tell your sister you're sorry and ask for their forgiveness." Then the sister says, "I don't want to forgive them because they were really mean and they hurt me." And Mom says, "You have to forgive them, because they apologized and the Bible says you have to forgive when someone apologizes!" Am I right? Does this sound familiar?
I have some different views on this whole kind of action, and maybe they will be a help to Mom & Dad.
First, when an offense occurs between children, I think it is improper for the parent to simply tell one to say "sorry" to the other as if that one word will clear the problem. When the Bible tells us how to deal with our sins before God, in I John 1:9 ("If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness"), the word "confess" means to say the same thing about the action that God says about it. For example, if we lie to someone, God says that lying is a sin, not just against another person but also against God. That sin needs to be confessed -- that is, we must admit to God that what He says about lying, is so. When we lie, that is sin, because God said so. The key idea here is that we have to admit to God that we understand how sinful our action was, and that we are repentant about it. Being "sorry" and being repentant for sin are two different things.
So, for the parent who is trying to referee a conflict between siblings, I think they need to help the child (or both children) to realize their actions are wrong. Now, I know the Bible doesn't say that it is a sin to talk mean to your brother or sister, but the Bible does say that we are to love one another. Being mean to one another is not very loving and is serious so far as God is concerned.
The parent needs to, first of all, identify the wrong action, put it into the context of what God says about that action, and then make sure the children understand the seriousness of that action. I would personally send the offender(s) to some neutral place to think about the seriousness of their actions in God's sight, to seek His forgiveness first. Then, when they are truly repentant (which means sorry enough not to do it again!), have the child go to the other person and say: "What I did or said was sinful, and I have confessed it to God and asked His forgiveness. Now I'm asking you to forgive me and help me to be the kind of person that won't act that way again."
Now, would you be more apt to think that such a request was more sincere than someone just saying "sorry"? And would you be more willing to really forgive them if they came with that kind of attitude? I know I would.
Why not share this with Mom and Dad and ask them to try to put this into practice.
One last idea for parents: Children need to be taught to respect one another and to treat each other as God treats the members of His family. If there is no respect at home, it is going to hurt the family’s ability to serve the Lord in a manner that will be effective.
I hope this is a help to you and your family.