Apologize, ask for forgiveness and you may gain a new freedom

Every day thousands of people are set free while thousands more are held in bondage. The perplexing thought is that on the surface you often cannot notice there’s a difference. As much as we value our freedom in America, you would think people would place a greater emphasis on the freedom that I’m referring to.

When you study the Constitution and compare it to today’s laws, it becomes clear that many of the freedoms that were precious to the writers of the Constitution have slowly eroded. Still today there is freedom that goes beyond rules and constitutions. A freedom that can lift one’s spirit and re-ignite one’s passion. Sadly though, many choose to live in bondage; they refuse to offer freedom or accept it.

Several years ago a pair of identical twin brothers, Joe and John, decided they would go into business together. When their father died, they decided to take over the local family business. For the most part it was a joyful collaboration. They ran the business together and all went well until one day a customer came into the store and purchased an item for $1. Joe left the dollar bill on the counter, and since there was no one else in the store besides his brother John, he walked the customer to his vehicle. When Joe returned to place the dollar bill in the cash register, he was surprised to see that the dollar bill had disappeared.

Joe immediately accused his brother John, who insisted he never saw the dollar bill. The argument turned into anger and from that point on, mistrust and suspicion grew until finally the two brothers could not work together. They actually put a partition right down the middle of the building and made it into two stores. In anger, they refused to speak for the next 20 years.

One day a stranger pulled up in front of the two stores, entered Joe’s store and asked, “Have you been in business very long?” Joe replied, “Why yes, 30 or 40 years now.” The stranger replied, “Good! I came here to tell you something. About 20 years ago, I was passing through this town. I was out of work and didn’t have any money or food. I remember walking down the alley behind this store. I looked in the back door, and when I saw a dollar bill laying on the counter with no one around, well I shoved the bill in my pocket and scrambled back down the alley.

“I came back today because I have experienced forgiveness in Jesus; I have been set free from the bondage I lived in for so many years. I felt the need to return and give you the dollar bill back with interest.”

Joe began to weep. With tears streaming down his face he asked the stranger, “Would you do me a big favor? Would you please come next door and tell your story to my brother John?” After the stranger had retold his story to John, the two brothers wept and apologized to one another, then embraced.

Freedom comes to us when we forgive and are forgiven. It’s really a health issue that so many people choose to ignore. Everything may seem fine on the outside, but deep inside there is a gnawing of the heart and mind that can go unnoticed. Like cancer, being unforgiven can silently destroy healthy emotions, leading to discouragement and even depression.

I have ministered to people who, decades after the fact, have finally found freedom through three simple words, “I forgive you.” You may even need to forgive someone who is deceased, so the healing power of forgiveness can begin. I have seen it with my own eyes.

Imagine the number of marriages that could be saved, the number of families that could be reunited and friendships that could be restored if you and I would take seriously the words of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:31-32: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

A spirit of forgiveness can open communication and free oneself from the bondage of brooding. Forgiveness not only frees you, but puts you on the pathway to healing and health. I have some suggestions on how you can be set free

Apologize without excuses! Sincere apologies say, “I was wrong, please forgive me.” Excuses only serve to re-qualify yourself. Real apologies take responsibility and set us free.

Offer apology freely no need to focus on hearing, “I accept your apology.” The response to your apology is not your problem. Focusing on a response will only steal your freedom.

When you are on the receiving end, freedom does come when you graciously accept an apology. Realize that the person apologizing needs to be set free just as much as you do.

Why not pick up a pen or the phone today, tell that person “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you.” You may be surprised at the new freedom you discover.

Pastor Duane Deckert is pastor of Bible Fellowship Church in Minot.