Lately, I came across a rather interesting situation which brought me to a few days of deliberation. It came from an incident in Theophilus' class. To make the story short - he apparently have offended a mild tempered classmate to the point of great anger.
Nay, that's not the interesting part. The interesting part was that Theophilus was told that his classmate will not forgive him (unless punishment is met out) and that he needs to earn back his friendship. Yes, even with apologies given, forgiveness is not given.
I am not really upset with not getting the forgiveness, what I was truly sadden was the apparent lack of wisdom that it was not quickly pointed out that forgiveness is NOT earned. It cannot be earned. Apology is not the price of forgiveness. Having said that, it is not to say that there is no ground for apologies when one has done wrong. Repentance is the evidence of the authenticity of an apology.
Again, I must restate the point: forgiveness cannot be earned. It is actually given. Given (willing) by the offended party. It cannot be bought. Punishment does not bring about forgiveness. This is that part that I felt was not really taught correctly to Theophilus in the incident that occurred in school. This has to be pointed out and taught. And the more interesting part is that the offended is often required to let the offender knows of the offence - at least from a biblical perspective.
The other interesting lesson was that Theophilus was taught to earn back his friendship. As much as this might sound right, it is still wrong. We do not earn friendship. Friendship, like forgiveness and love are given. Given to another, freely and willingly. What does it mean to earn back your friendship? To loose a friendship has to be initiated by the one who gave it out. He takes back what he has given freely.
So when Theophilus offends someone, the burden is on the offended to point out the offence. The bad part is that most of us are scared to take this step. Reason is simple: we are afraid of a second blow - being waved off as a trivial matter when you bring up the subject to the offender. But how can we ever reconcile or allow the chance for the offender to see what he has done if it is not told to him? We are blind in so many of our ways, and our sensitivity varies from one to another. So, it is the duty of the offended to bring the offence to the offender.
It is the duty of the offender to consider the offence to the offenced, and not trivialize it. An apology is required. An apology is not a magical wane. It does not remove the pain which the offence brings along as a sting. It is just a statement of an genuine attempt to see the entire offence from the offended's point of view. To understand the hurt. It is not to be used as part of the "repayment". It can never justify the offence. True "sorry" is really shown subsequently, and that's the test of character. For our words will be weighed by our character which is displayed through our actions.
It is through the apology-forgiveness-repentance-reconcilation cycle that friendships are restored. For in those moments of tension, friendship could be abruptly disrupted. Friendship is withdrawn from the offended. However, friendship is offered afreshed once reconcilation takes place. Forgiveness is given. Repentence lived out. Friendship offered. Repentence is not the wages to friendship, neither is it part of the wages for forgiveness. Punishment is just part of the equation to justice. It is not part of the equation of forgiveness. Both friendships and forgiveness are gifts. And can only be genuinely given out when you truly want to leave the past and move forward with the relationship.
There are duties to both parties. But it is wrong to teach him that he needs to earn back his friendship. And it is wrong to put the burden of forgiveness upon his shoulders when he is the offender. His burdens are of a different set.... he needs to live out his repentance.