Chloe and Cole got into an exchange of words. Somewhere along the way, Chloe said something very hurtful to Cole. I could tell he was on the verge of tears.
I strongly suggested to Chloe that she should apologize to her brother. Without hesitation she turned to him and said, "I'm sorry."
In our home, whenever someone apologizes we don't say "That's OK." Because it isn't. It isn't OK that they did or said what they did or said. Besides, to me "That's OK" sounds a little too dismissive - dismissive of the person's actions, as well as dismissive of the resolution that should come as a result of the apology.
So in our home, we either say, "I accept your apology," or "I forgive you."
But on this day, Cole didn't say either one. He refused to accept Chloe's apology. Instead, he sat there with the corners of his mouth turned down to his knees. He wore the most pitiful puppy-dog expression on his face that I think I've ever seen. His feelings had been hurt, and he wasn't ready to let that go yet.
"Cole, when someone tells you they're sorry, you're supposed to forgive them," I said.
We all know that, right? When someone wrongs us and later seeks forgiveness, we ought to forgive them for that trespass. But even though we know we should do it, it's still a hard thing to do.
It was hard for Peter. As a Jewish man, he knew what God expected as far as forgiveness was concerned. As a disciple of Jesus, he'd heard Jesus' teachings on forgiveness several times over. Yet Peter still had a question about it.
"Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times" (Matthew 18:21)? Peter thought to forgive someone who wronged him seven times was a gracious plenty. Jesus, however, went further. Much further. "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:22 NASB).
So was Jesus saying we should forgive someone 490 times, but on the 491st time we're allowed to withhold forgiveness? I hope not. I know I've sinned against God more than 490 times. Yet he continues to forgive me no matter how many times I ask him to.
What Jesus was actually saying was that we should be abounding in grace, willing to forgive as often as we are asked to.
Cole finally did accept Chloe's apology, and they both learned something about forgiveness that day. So did I.
Parrish Myers is a local minister. His column appears every other week in Sunday Life and on gainesvilletimes.com.