How the Gospel Helps Us Make Forgiveness a Regular Rhythm in Our Homes

by | Sep 11, 2023

Moms, how many times a week do you say this phrase? 

“Say you’re sorry.” 

  • Little brother pulled sister’s hair. “Say you’re sorry.” 
  • Big sister shut little sister’s fingers in a door (maybe accidentally, maybe not). “Say you’re sorry.”
  • Little sister took big sister’s toy without asking. “Say you’re sorry.”

If there is more than one person living in your house, then there is conflict. And when there is conflict, there is the need to apologize and repair the relationship.

And your kids are not the only offenders. Conflict in your home doesn’t only happen between siblings or the smallest members of the family. Conflict happens between you and your husband. It happens between you and your kids. 

I know I’m not perfect in the way I talk to my kids. When I lose my patience with one of them or get overly frustrated, I know it’s my turn to say I’m sorry. 

We all need to say, “I’m sorry.” But they aren’t just nice words that make us feel better about a situation temporarily. Genuine repentance leads to forgiveness which leads to reconciliation in our relationships. 

In our home lately, we’ve been reminding each other that we all make mistakes. We don’t have any perfect people living here. And being in relationships with imperfect people guarantees that we will get hurt and that we will hurt others. 

Jesus’ death on the cross gives us the example we need to practice daily repentance and forgiveness in our relationships. When we had done nothing to deserve His love, Christ died for us, giving us a way to repent, come to Him, and receive forgiveness. He repaired the relationship that was marred by sin, reconciling us to Himself. 


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8 (NIV)

We can put Christ’s example into practice in our homes by making repentance and forgiveness part of the regular rhythm of our family experience. 

Here are three steps we’ve been trying to put into practice to help us do this in our home:

1. Repentance

Repentance is the first step. We encourage our kids to admit when they’ve hurt someone—on purpose or not. Sometimes they need help recognizing and acknowledging an offense.

I have one kid who readily admits fault and is quick to say I’m sorry. She is eager to get mistakes out of the way and make the relationship right again. 

I have one who never voluntarily admits any wrongdoing and resists saying sorry even when prompted. 

(I also have one who is a tornado, leaving a wake of destruction in his path with no regard for person or property. But he only says mama and bye-bye, so he gets a pass for now.) 

In Matthew 5, Jesus knew we would have conflict when He spoke these words:


Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

 Matthew 5:23-24

Jesus instructed us to take initiative with repentance. This kind of repentance doesn’t wait until someone points out your wrongdoing. It means taking responsibility when you know you’ve wronged someone. 

This is hard for our kids. They don’t always know. As they grow and mature, I think we can gently help them see how their actions affect others and help them admit and acknowledge when they have hurt someone. 

Here are a few questions we’ve been asking at our house to help our kids recognize when repentance is needed:

  • How do you think those words made your sibling feel?
  • What were you saying with your actions? (ignoring, pushing, running away)
  • Did you ignore someone who wanted to talk to you? How did that make them feel?

This is when modeling is so important. When we as moms can acknowledge when we speak in a hurtful way and admit our own mistakes, our kids have an example to follow. In my experience, when I have said, “I’m sorry,” to one of my kids, it leads us into a deeper relationship.   

And it helps them practice the next step, which is to forgive.

2. Forgiveness

Have you experienced the “forgiveness standoff?” One sibling says, “I’m sorry.” The other stares at them in stone-cold silence. 

What happens after confession and repentance is the work of forgiveness. When the repentance comes, we receive it. We accept, forgive, and move toward a restored relationship. This can be hard work, especially for kids. Sin makes us want to stay angry. 

In Colossians 3, Paul gave instructions on how we should live as God’s people, including how we should forgive:

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Colossians 3:13

To bear with someone means to have patience. It makes me think of a relationship that happens over a long period of time—the kind of relationships we’re building with the people God has given us to do life with as a family. These people that we live with are going to hurt each other and hurt us—again and again. Because of Jesus, we can forgive—again and again. 

How do we do this in our homes? When our kids admit a mistake, we can be quick to receive those words and forgive. When they hurt each other, we can help them repent and help them both receive and give forgiveness. 

Paul’s instruction is to forgive others as the Lord forgave us. The Lord’s forgiveness came when we didn’t deserve it. When we had done nothing to earn His forgiveness. 

For our families, this means extending forgiveness even when the offender hasn’t acknowledged their offense. This is gospel love. This is loving our families as Jesus loves us. We model for them what Christ first modeled for us. 

When we live in view of the Gospel, we live with an attitude of forgiveness, forgiving others even when they don’t know they need forgiveness. 

How do you think an attitude of forgiveness might change the atmosphere of your home?

3. Reconciliation

The goal of repentance and forgiveness is reconciliation. We don’t want repentance and forgiveness to be isolated events in our homes. We want to create a rhythm of repentance and forgiveness that moves us toward deeper relationships.

As followers of Jesus, this is what we’re called to do:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:  The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:17-19


Reconciliation means:

  • to restore
  • to repair
  • to reinstate
  • to put something back together

This is what Jesus did for us on the cross and what He calls us to do for others. What better place to practice this ministry of reconciliation than within the walls of our homes? 

I shared about my child who resists confession. I want to give some more context. She came to us from a background of repeated trauma, having lived in multiple homes before God brought her to her forever family. In her past, when you messed up, you were not forgiven, and you were removed from the relationship. I believe this experience is what makes her so reluctant to apologize. 

Her experience is that mistakes lead to separation. But the message of the gospel is reconciliation. When our sin separated us from a loving God, He made a way to bring us back. 

We know our kids are going to make mistakes. They’re going to hurt each other and hurt us. We are going to offend them. We are all imperfect people. They need to know that there’s a way back. That conflict doesn’t have to lead to severed relationships. 

When we forgive, our mistakes and missteps can move our relationships forward. Our relational equity with other family members grows. The next time I mess up or you mess up, we can be quicker to repent, quicker to forgive, and quicker to reconcile. 

This is what’s possible when we make repentance and forgiveness part of the regular rhythm of our families. 

  • What could this look like in your home today?
  • Do you need to ask someone for forgiveness? Your husband? Your kids?
  • Is there someone you need to forgive?
  • How can you encourage your kids to practice repentance and forgiveness with each other?

The word “character” has many definitions in our modern world. As Christians, our standard of character is God himself. But how do we, as parents, help shape our kids to make decisions that are honoring to God, like forgiving someone who has hurt you?  If you want to know more about this topic, listen to the podcast below. It is full of biblical truths and practical ideas that will help you in your journey of motherhood.

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