A few months ago a man stopped by the church on a Sunday morning before the service to talk to the pastor (Note to everyone: please don't do this, he has a lot on his mind already. Call the office during the week and schedule a time to meet with him).
"It'll only take a minute," Carl said. The pastor, caught off guard, agreed to speak with him. "I wanted to apologize to you. I've been telling lies about you all over town and I need to make it right." The pastor was dumbfounded, but accepted the quasi-apology and watched as Carl walked out the door, convinced he'd done what he needed to to make it right. The pastor was left to preach his Sunday sermon with an arrow sticking out of his back.
A similar thing happened on a Wednesday night as Alissa stopped by before Bible study to talk to the pastor. "I'm making things right with some people in my life," she said. And that was that.
I was bewildered by these two confessions. Both feeling as though they'd apologized and made things right, but neither having done what they'd set out to do.
If Carl, being concerned about making things right, had also said he'd begun to share the real story with those he'd lied to he may have been able to repair the damage he'd done. He needed to apologize to each of them and begin to right the wrong and set straight the false accusations he'd been making. Who knows how many in the community heard his stories, both from him and passed along by others. This is one way Christians turn people away from God and away from the church, by sharing false information.
Alissa never made mention of exactly what she was trying to make right. She just said those exact words and exited.
We've not seen or heard from either of these people since.
I'm glad they cleared their conscience, but isn't apologizing for a wrong you've done someone a little more than that? They may have thought they were absolving themselves from any wrongs with their drive-thru apologies, but instead they left behind a wake of confusion. Confusion that the enemy picked up like dropped arrows on the ground, loaded them into his quiver, and began to shoot.
Sometimes I think it's better if we don't apologize. If we just ask forgiveness of God and change our ways. Hear me out. Yes, if we have an issue or an argument with someone then we need to make it right. But if we did something to someone, in this case spread lies around town about someone that they were unaware of, do we really need to tell them what we did? Can't that cause a bigger problem?
Carl and Alissa opened a vein of spiritual warfare that we had to fight because of their apologies. We had to forgive and let go, knowing that we couldn't do anything to repair the damage they had done. Knowing we couldn't do to them what they'd done to us. Knowing that we had to leave the discipline to the Lord. Because that's what He wants of us, as followers of Him. It's another example of denying self.
How much trouble do we bring on ourselves?
Most of it.