Acceptable Apology

Genesis 50:1-21
We, the servants of the
God of your father, beg
you to forgive our sin

After fighting with his wife, one man in Saudi Arabia decided to apologize. Unfortunately, his wife had
already moved back in with her parents. So he created a banner with his plea for forgiveness printed
on it, hung it near his in-laws’ house, and commented, “I hope she will accept my apology and come back home.”

There are lots of ways to say I’m sorry—banners, greeting cards, Web sites, public speeches, or just
a simple hand-on-the-shoulder discussion next to the refrigerator. No matter how we express the idea, an
acceptable apology should cover some basic points.

First, it’s important to name the offense. Years after Joseph’s brothers sold him as a slave, they sent him this
message: “Please forgive your brothers for . . . their sin in treating you so cruelly” (Genesis 50:17). Although
they didn’t go into the details of the sale, they did address the heart of the matter, which was their cruelty.

Second, once they established the issue, the brothers focused exclusively on their own wrongdoing. They didn’t remind Joseph of his bratty behavior and superiority complex back when they were growing up. Like the
brothers, we should not try to justify our offense by pinning blame on the other person.

Third, sometimes an apology includes taking action to make things right. Joseph’s brothers bowed before him,
proclaiming, “Look! We are your slaves!” (v.18). This fulfilled a prophetic dream of Joseph’s in which he would reign over his family members (37:5-8). The whole situation had come full circle and his siblings’
repentant action was a final act of restitution.

The Bible urges us to “work at living in peace with everyone” (Heb. 12:14).  Sometimes this means giving an acceptable apology—identifying and owning up to our fault and then doing what it takes to made amends for our offense.

—Jennifer Benson Schuldt

• Psalm 38:18
• Romans 12:18
• 1 John 1:9

What should you do if someone refuses to
forgive you? How has forgiveness changed
your life?