“Love means never having to say you’re sorry” is a famous line from the film Love Story, but it’s also dead wrong. I think the opposite is true: love means being able to say that you’re sorry. As Christians, we all have an awareness that while we’re assured of our eternal salvation in Christ, we continue to live in a fallen world and we don’t yet fully partake in the perfection of the Trinity. A sinful nature still has a pull on us, and we will hurt and offend those closest to us. When this happens, our pride instantly kicks in. That’s why admitting we’re wrong and asking for forgiveness are so incredibly difficult. But if we desire to be like our Lord, John tells us that “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us all from unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9, NKJV).
Saying we’re sorry and asking for forgiveness is the only way to heal a relationship where we’ve wronged someone. Listen to what Jesus says in Luke: “If your brother or sister sins against you… and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them” (Luke 17:3-4 NIV).
It’s tempting to keep a record of wrongs that others have done to us, but doing so ignores the example set for us by Jesus. Of course, we can’t make anyone else accept our apology. But we can certainly set the example by overcoming our pride, admitting that we’re wrong, and asking for forgiveness first. And we open wide the door to restoration. This can bring a wonderful dynamic of openness and trust to a relationship, and in so doing, it mirrors the radical love that our triune God has shown for us. Because remember, true love doesn’t mean never having to say you’re sorry: instead, it actually means being able to say that you’re sorry.