As we think long and hard about transgression, our transgressions against others, and their transgressions against us, we can quickly come to agree that what the transgressed require is simply the honesty of an appropriate and sincere apology (which includes admitting fault, saying sorry, acceptance of consequences, asking for forgiveness, and repenting — the promise not to do the wrong again and delivering on same).
It often isn’t hard to forgive an honest confession, where a person admits they were wrong and they apologise for what they did, accepting the consequences, and promising not to do it again — especially when they demonstrate true transformation by delivering on that promise. Where they ask for our forgiveness, it isn’t terribly hard to accede to their request, after all, a sincere acknowledgement of wrongdoing is usually very much a prayer answered.
I have heard it said that people sometimes don’t want to confess they did the wrong thing for fear of repercussions — for example, legal action. Part of their failure to apologise is couched, obviously in such a case, in not being willing to accept the potential consequences. But I believe that a most sincere confession is enough to receive the sincerest forgiveness. People should honour the truth when it comes to the wrongdoing they have engaged in. Telling the truth so justice can be done is important. Only the person who counts their own needs more important than another person’s needs will continue to propagate the lie. And yet, time and again we see those who perpetrate abuse and who have power do just that.
For the person who has abused another person, who has transgressed them greatly, there is justice and potential great healing in confessing and repenting of the deeds that were done. The initial harms done can often be redeemed if only further damage isn’t done by denying the facts at the least, or by gaslighting the victim at most. Denying what was done does significantly more damage than the initial abuse ever could. That sounds bizarre, I know, but it just goes to show the power there is to redeem even great atrocities, if only perpetrators would do the right thing. Obviously, someone who has exploited another person with intention is also the kind of person who will be very reticent to pay the price for their transgression.
All the victim of abuse really needs is the humble recognition of that wrongdoing, but of course they most often don’t get that, because to admit guilt requires a potentially great risk on behalf of the perpetrator. Yet, it is their only defense, because everything is done in the sight of God, and they will face God to give an account one day, as we all will.
I thought long and hard about using the word “need” in the title. Whilst it’s true many victims of violence can seem to move past the events where they have been harmed and appear to genuinely prosper, it is also true that there are many who cannot move on, who are stuck within a trauma that is characterised by post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, etc. What could make all the difference in these people’s lives is for them to receive the simple acknowledgement from the perpetrator of the sin that was committed against them. Usually, however, it can be predicted that someone who committed violence against a person is the kind of person who would commit a further violence by failing to acknowledge and repent of the sin. It is rare that a person would commit violence and then be honest, humble and courageous enough to admit their iniquity.
There are those, though, who do this, who admit their fault, and recognise the wisdom in paying a price of the consequences required. These may certainly be the one-in-100; the lost that the Shepherd goes after, who are found, and who come back into the sheepfold with the Shepherd (Luke 15:1-7). Notice how much rejoicing there is in heaven when one of these (perpetrators of violence) repents as compared with the 99 who do not need to.
Blessed is the perpetrator who repents of their sin before the sun sets and they face God.
What’s in it for them? Everything!