Timbaland “featuring” OneRepublic’s song, Apologize, has been sitting at or near the top of the music charts for several weeks. It doesn’t take long to realize this song is more OneRepublic than it is Timbaland, though the rapper’s name on the artist credits likely gave the song the star power it needed to rocket to the top of the charts!

Apologize is all about a guy/girl romantic breakup. But apologies and forgiveness are woven into the fabric of any relationship, so whether you’re into the couples scene or not right now, Apologize gives you plenty to think about. Check out these lyrics:

You tell me that you’re sorry
Didn’t think I’d turn around, and say…

It’s too late to apologize, it’s too late
I said it’s too late to apologize, it’s too late.

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We’ve all felt the emotions that come when someone carelessly, cavalierly and repeatedly apologizes for some deeply wounding words or behavior. Apologizing and forgiving are complicated and sometimes messy. Yet they stand at the very center of Jesus’ teachings and at the heart of His purposes in coming to earth. After all, He came to pay the price for our sins and offer us forgiveness, if we are willing to ask for it and trust Him. God’s standing offer of a restored relationship with Him, despite our mess ups, is incredible!

Forgiveness from God is ours for the asking, just as the Bible promises us in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Notice that there are no stimpulations in this verse, i.e., if you drag your feet too long or you repeat the offense too often God’s not interested in your apology/confession.

So while apologies and forgiveness can be complicated and messy, they are something everyone must wrestle with. For in light of Jesus’ teachings, what else can we do other than step up and apologize to God and to others when we mess up? And what else can we do but embrace a lifestyle of forgiveness if we are His followers, based on the following verses?

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times (Matthew 18:21-22).

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:13).

Apologizing and forgiving don’t mean you deny the pain and anger that comes when you or someone else does something that causes deep hurt. Those emotions are real and must be acknowledged and worked through. But release from the hurt only comes when, through God’s grace and power, you choose to forgive others as Christ forgave you. True forgiveness in God’s power releases you from the twin traps of obsessing over past wrongs and wallowing in bitterness.

Apologizing or forgiving also doesn’t mean that there are no consequences for the offender. Wisely setting boundaries for relationships is a reasonable consequence when deep hurt has been intentionally inflicted. But apologizing to God does wipe away the eternal spiritual consequences for your sin, removing them as far away as the ‘east is from the west’ (Psalm 103:12).

The hit song Apologize can give you plenty of openings for turning the conversation toward Jesus, so jump in and go for it! Here are a few specific questions to help you get started:

Ask your friends how they typically react when someone does something that hurts them deeply? Anger? Withdrawal? Revenge? Bitterness?

What do they think are the likely consequences of each of these kinds of reactions? Listen and share your perspective as well.

Ask your friends if they would characterize someone with a lifestyle of forgiveness as a naïve, gullible victim or as a mature, compassionate overcomer? Share how central forgiveness was in Jesus’ life and teaching and how central it was in beginning your personal relationship with Jesus.

Do you think it’s ever too late to apologize to God? Share the Good News that God always stands ready to listen to our genuine apologies and confessions, and that His forgiveness is available to all.

Apologizing and forgiving are foundational to healthy human relationships, because we all mess up and do things that hurt others. But even more importantly, they are the very basis for our restored relationship with God, through the forgiveness of our sins by Jesus’ finished work on the cross. Put them into practice in your life and pass these gifts along to your friends!

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