By Patrick Michael Murphy

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift(Matthew 5:23-24ESV).

Forgiveness is the starting point in restoring relational harmony—there are no enduring relationships without it. Being truly forgiving means you will choose to release people from the debt they incurred when they hurt you.

And the forgiveness road goes both ways. For some, it may be harder to ask for forgiveness than to extend it. We’re not talking about a quick “sorry” that has nothing to do with requesting forgiveness. That’s not asking for anything; it’s telling someone how you feel and not really giving them a chance to respond.

The most effective (and fear producing) way to ask for forgiveness is to actually ask. Admit what you did was wrong and then say only, “Will you forgive me?” and stop there. It’s not “If I did something wrong . . .” (you know you did), or “I didn’t mean to . . .” which excuses what you did. Nor is it, “I know you got hurt . . .” which subtly shifts the blame to their sensitivity.

True forgiveness is found when you ask, “I was wrong; will you forgive me?”

Why is this so scary? Because we instinctively try to avoid putting ourselves in a vulnerable position. It’s much easier and safer to assume we will be forgiven than to actually stand there and wait for it. We’re terrified of the possibility that someone we love could look us in the eye and say, “No, I don’t forgive you.” That response might be as painful as the hurt we caused. But that’s the reality of forgiveness—we have to give it and ask for it.

Jesus is clear we’re to take responsibility for the relational conflict we’ve caused others: “First, be reconciled.” How can we approach the Lord when there is brokenness between ourselves and others? God doesn’t receive our worship if He knows we have no intention of loving those closest to us. We can fool others; we can’t fool Him.

We can ask for God’s help as we seek forgiveness, but we must ask those we’ve hurt to extend us mercy. There are no enduring relationships without forgiveness.


What is your typical approach to dealing with hurt you have caused? Do you ask for forgiveness or only apologize?

Who do you need to forgive, or ask for forgiveness from? When will you do this?


Father, through Your Son You’ve demonstrated the extent of Your love and forgiveness. You’ve already promised to have mercy on me, but I’m not sure I have that promise from those I’ve hurt. Help me to show Your mercy and be so ready to forgive those I love that they don’t hesitate to ask me. Please give me the courage I need to face those I love and make forgiveness a bigger part of our family life, starting with me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Our Journey devotionals are brought to you by Change Partners of Walk in the Word.

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