“A brother who is wronged is more unyielding than a fortified city.” (Proverbs 18:19 NIV)
Sometimes by accident, sometimes by stupidity, sometimes unknowingly, sometimes intentionally we sever connections. One weeknight, I was passing through the main lobby of our church when I heard, “Pastor Ron, Pastor Ron!” I detoured over to the man and greeted him. “What can I do for you?” His response, “I just wanted you to know that I forgive you.” My mind raced with thoughts. This is some kind of joke. He is going to tease me about the Dallas Cowboys or some other playful interchange. However, I quickly realized that he was serious. “I want you to know that I forgive you. I’ve been angry at you for quite some time.”
This was a critical point where my pride, and my smart-alec sense of humor, had to take back seat to the essential factors in relationships. You may be surprised to hear what I said, “I hope you had a good time!” Ours was a large church, and I didn’t have any idea who this man was. His face was not familiar, and I immediately, and unspiritually, thought, “You want to forgive me? What you want is to get a dig in before you do.” Fortunately, I did not add that to my word blunder!
Quickly, I pushed by my faulty start and offered an apology. “I’m sorry I offended you. I don’t want to appear to be insincere, but I’m afraid I have no idea what I have done. Please tell me, so I can make things right.” He explained, several months ago, you were walking through the lobby and did not speak to me.” I could feel the sarcasm rising again, but God helped me squelch it. “If I didn’t speak to you, it is because I did not see you. I would not do something like that on purpose. But that is the way it felt to you, so that is your reality, and I’m sorry that happened. Do you forgive me?”
Technically, I did not do anything wrong and did not owe him an apology. But, relationships are valuable gifts from God. The conversation, to that point, was not about being right. This man needed a connection, and it was worth the effort to value him by acknowledging how the accidental slight made him feel. Awkward though it was, this man stepped out of his comfort zone to correct the connection.
Yes, the encounter may have been a manipulation emerging from some sort of dysfunction, but without proof, a connection needed to be established. At that moment, the relationship was all that mattered.