Is it the same thing as saying I’m sorry? I believe we have, as a society, reduced forgiveness into a mere “I’m sorry”. That is not what forgiveness is about! We do not ask forgiveness if we accidentally step on someone’s toe. I mean we did not just sin did we? You only need to ask for forgiveness if you sin; either against God, yourself or someone else. Therefore we do not say “will you forgive me for stepping on your toes”, we say “I’m sorry that I stepped on your toes”, because you are sorry. You did not mean to do it, but in doing so, you did not sin against them. You just accidentally stepped on their toes.
There will be times when you hurt someone’s feelings and while they want you to ask for forgiveness, the question is did you do it on purpose? If not, then was it sin? Probably not, I mean you hurt their feelings and you are very sorry for that. Nevertheless, in the end, you did not sin against them, yourself or God and therefore it requires no forgiveness. They just need to accept your apology or not.
So when is it appropriate for you to say “Will you forgive me?”. When you have done something that is truly a sin. If you sin against a person, IE: purposely hurt them emotionally or physically then you should ask for forgiveness; but only when you are truly in repentance for what you did. I will talk about repentance in another post at a later date. Forgiveness is an extremely vital thing to understand in our walk with Christ and even more so before our salvation. The idea of forgiveness comes to fruition when we understand that we have sinned against a Holy God and that He sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross to pay for our sins. When you come to realize the full meaning of that sacrifice, then and only then can you truly ask for forgiveness.
Without understanding what forgiveness is about, or for, we uselessly throw the word around and in doing so we reduce the effectiveness of the word. There is power in forgiveness, so much power in fact that we are commanded to settle any issues we have with our brothers before we partake in the Lord’s Supper. Further Paul said that while it is in our ability we should be at peace with all men, which means asking for forgiveness where it is necessary.
So what is forgiveness? I believe forgiveness is a choice we make through a conscious, deliberate decision of our will, motivated by obedience to God and his command to forgive. Forgiveness is releasing your anger or resentment towards the offender, whether they deserve it or not. Forgiveness is a gift God gives to us so that we may live in peace and love with all of the called in unity. We are able to forgive only because He first forgave us.