The proverbial milk spills and the litany begins:
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…” says my son.
I cringe every time. The repetition of this phrase is nearly as jarring as hearing the cup hit the floor in the first place. After cleaning up whatever mess was made, I realize another perfect opportunity for the Gospel has been graciously presented to my family.
Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road. –Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (HCSB)
‘I’m sorry’ is not an apology. It is a sentiment, an expression of emotion. Sometimes the emotion of shame, other times it is guilt, or sadness. Regardless of the origin or even the particular sin involved, responding to my son by telling him ‘It’s OK,’ or ‘No problem,’ would be to leave him in his shame/guilt/sadness. In such a shallow response, I stand in direct opposition to his cry for redemption and proclaim ‘None may be found.’
Adam’s shame and guilt was redeemed by God. Through the cross, Jesus enables us to extend His graciousness to others. So I endeavor to redirect the guilt my son experiences in his heart upon realizing the ‘spilled milk’ is indeed his fault (regardless of intent), back to the cross, back to the all sufficient coverage that Jesus provided.
“Son, I know you’re sorry, but what did you do wrong?”
“I wasn’t paying attention. I apologize for not paying attention and spilling the milk. Please forgive me.”
“I forgive you, son.”
Apologizing and asking for forgiveness is a testimony. Through my son’s repentance, he is affirming the reality of sin and its effects upon our souls. I reaffirm this biblical reality every chance I get, especially as a father. The first step toward salvation is a proper understanding of our condition. Requiring an apology, rather than an expression of emotional sentiment, will yield fruit in my son’s life throughout eternity.
How blessed are we to then provide the most spectacular response in the world? “I forgive you.” As the milk is wiped away, as the clothing was provided to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21), so too is my child’s guilt made clean, so too is my own. I also am a child crying out for redemption. I don’t normally spill milk, but oh the list I could provide of sin that needs covered (1 Timothy 1:15). Praise God that through Christ’s saving work I can claim forgiveness.
My son’s apology is a testimony concerning his sin and need of a savior. My forgiveness is a testimony of the Good News that God provided us with one. We claim both in our family. Because of the Gospel, every sin is transformed into a new sunrise of joy in Christ.
Light dawns for the righteous, gladness for the upright in heart. –Psalm 97:11 (HCSB)
May you and yours see opportunities for apology and forgiveness through Christ our savior. Amen.