Last week, I took a continuing education course on the practice of mediation. The group taking the course was diverse with numerous HR professionals, a minister and some federal employees that find themselves managing labor disputes and a number of lawyers. I’m a pastor and a lawyer so I hit a couple of the categories, I suppose.
One of the more interesting presentations was focused on the idea of apology as a tool towards reconciliation. Obviously, reconciliation will facilitate dispute resolution which is the whole point of mediation. The thought was easy enough; apology facilitates forgiveness which produces reconciliation and dispute resolution.
Apology depends on humility and courage for the apology giver to be willing to be vulnerable enough to admit a wrong. The admission of the wrong doesn’t assure forgiveness so the confession opens up the apologizer to the embarrassment and exposure that comes in the wake of their apology. Yet it is a powerful tool in breaking deadlocks of disagreement if one of the parties is willing to go there.
I’ve worked in dispute resolution in faith-based as well as secular settings for decades. While this training was predominately focused on secular mediation, the truth of faith was seeping over into the practice of the world. Faith, at least faith in Jesus, is based on grace and the receipt of forgiveness. To step into that forgiveness, repentance is the turn from one way of thinking to another. Repentance is a form of apology to God for wrong thinking and agreement with Him to realize His grace through Jesus.
Any of us that have experienced the joy of the freedom that comes in the wake of confession and forgiveness would likely endorse the power of apology. That’s with our rejection of and reconciliation with God, however. It may be harder to actually step towards forgiveness when hurts and offenses are fostered by others.
Here’s the thing; Jesus forgives us already. He died to forgive us. We don’t have to repent or apologize to be forgiven; we just have to repent or apologize to realize the benefit of His forgiveness. Eternal forgiveness is eternal; temporal realization of that forgiveness is available starting now and running into eternity. If we reject the availability of forgiveness now, we’ll miss the benefits of forgiveness eternally.
Apology is a powerful tool in dispute resolution derived from the eternal truth of reconciliation with God as Father. He is calling each of us to Him through Jesus and His grace. If we receive His grace, we are more willing to offer grace and where we know forgiveness, we are likely to give forgiveness. Where we know the power of reconciliation from the Source of reconciliation, we are likely to be agents of reconciliation.