How should one make a confession or an apology? Is it mere words or should subsequent actions follow?
The following guidelines for a confession and repentance are from Ken Sande, Peacemaking for Families: A Biblical Guide to Managing Conflict in Your Home. A book I highly recommend on the subject. They are the 7 – A’s of Confession with some follow-up questions you may be able to apply.
Address everyone involved.
To whom do you need to confess?
Avoid “if, but, and maybe.”
What excuses or blaming do you need to avoid?
What sins have you committed? What biblical principles have you violated against a holy God?
How might others feel as a result of your sin?
Accept the consequences.
What are the consequences of your sin? How can you help reverse the damage you have caused?
Alter your behavior.
What changes do you intend to make, with God’s help, in the way you think, speak, and behave? Results are immediate, verifiable, and unconditional.
Ask for forgiveness and allow time.
What might make the person whom you have wronged reluctant to forgive you? What can you do to make it easier for that person to forgive you?
Yet, an apology does not automatically result in amends. Genuine repentance produces fruit (cf. Mat 3:8; Acts 26:20). Repentance > regret; it’s more than words but actions (cf 2Cor 7:10). Therefore, the actions and fruit of repentance create the environment for restoration to occur. While forgiveness from God may be immediate, restoration with others takes time through restitution (cf. Luke 19:8 Zacchaeus). God forgives us positionally, but our sanctification that lives out that grace takes dynamic practice. We often equate forgiveness with restoration, but each are unique.
Forgiveness is the declaration of sin being atoned and judgment is averted.
Four promises of forgiveness
- I will not dwell on incident.
- I will not use incident as a dig.
- I will not dialogue with others about this incident.
- I will not allow this incident divide us from seeking restoration.
Restoration is the process of repairing the relationship to its former or better status; it’s the fruit of forgiveness. In its fullness, repentance and restoration are not simply words or even surface actions, but are internal changes of the heart. Godly repentance changes our desires and affections through the power of the Holy Spirit and the word of God (cf Rom 8:4-11; Col 3:1-4; etc.).