Apologies, Forgiveness, and Consequences


Andrew (left) on a 5th Grade Field Trip (2007)

Andrew (left) on a 5th Grade Field Trip (2007)

You cannot turn on the radio or TV in my section of the world and not hear or see a report about The Food Network and Restaurateur, Paula Dean. If you do not know about this recent conflict, do a quick search and you will get more information than you can digest. Basically, a former employee is accusing The Food Network star of using racially charged language. Paula Dean admitted to using such language in the past and has tearfully apologized for her behavior that resulted in the cancellation of her cooking show and the termination of her contract with The Food Network. Some are applauding The Food Network for standing their ground while others are calling for them to reinstate Paula Dean.

I do not have all the information, so I do not have a completely formed opinion. Yet, these events bring to mind a misunderstanding that I continually observe in our society. Somehow, we think that if we apologize the other party has an obligation to forgive and relieve us of consequences. If both parties are Christians then forgiveness should be a part of the formula (cf. Matt 5:23-24; Matt 18:15-17; Eph 4:32; Col 3:12-13). But does forgiveness necessitate the removal of consequences?

A little less than 20 years ago, Joe (a real person, but not his real name) was a young man and a new Christian. He had a good job with a fair amount of responsibilities. Somewhere along the way, he took advantage of those responsibilities and the freedom entrusted to him and became involved in an illicit activity – once. He came to me for spiritual counselling and told me about what transpired. He was truly sorry for his actions and knew that they were sinful. Because the events involved others and reflected poorly on Christianity, Joe confessed his sins not only to God, but to the church as a whole asking for and receiving forgiveness. That is not the end of the story. He lost his job as a result of his actions and because of the nature of his actions he spent time in jail. He will also carry this record with him for a long time. Apologize?  – Yes! Repent to God and fellow Christians? – Yes! Forgiven? – Yes! Release of consequences? – No!

Fair? Right? Just? Ask David. David was King of Israel when he had an adulterous relationship with a married woman (Bathsheeba) and then when his initial attempts at covering up the sin failed, David, the King, had her husband killed in battle so he could comfort Bathsheeba and take her to be his wife. The prophet Nathan speaks for God and shows David the full nature of his sin. We pick up the story in 2 Samuel 12:11-14, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.'” David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.” 

  • Notice that David confesses his sin (I have sinned against the Lord).
  • Notice that God forgives that sin (The Lord has put away your sin . . .).
  • Notice there were still temporal consequences (Nevertheless . . .).

When I sin against God or man, I must apologize, I must repent. But know that even when forgiven, there may still be physical consequences that I must endure.

– Scott

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