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March 16, 2015

You are obviously going to snap a picture of yourself when you’re pregnant—or of your wife when she’s pregnant—and share it with the world through Facebook or Instagram or your network of choice. You know the picture: standing in profile with the shirt pulled tight so we can see the bulge of the belly and reply, “So excited! Can’t wait to meet the baby!” It’s a new tradition, and a good one I think. We get to rejoice with those who rejoice.

And then you’ll have to snap a picture of mom in the hospital with the newborn baby nestled on her shoulder. And one of the proud dad. And one of the baby in her car seat as she prepares to come home for the first time. The first time eating solid food. The first time trying to take a few steps. The obligatory bath picture with the new brother or sister. The first day of school. These are all moments to share with your friends and followers so they can celebrate with you. It’s one of the great joys of life here and now.

It’s not just the photos, either. It’s the things your children say and the things they do. It’s the adorable words they mouth, the words and phrases they butcher. It’s the streaking and the temper tantrums and the unintentionally brutal insults that are hilariously exasperating parts of childhood. You love to capture or describe these and share them with the world. So do I.

But I wonder: What is your exit plan? Do you have one?

I want to give you two things to think about. One is a heart-level consideration and the other a practical-level consideration. Let’s start practical.

Our children begin their lives as an extension of us. They do this in a very literal and physical sense, but also in a social sense. For a time, children experience life alongside of us and through us, almost indistinguishable from us. But they grow and keep growing, and as they do, they become their own people. They turn 8 or 9 and develop social consciousness and awkwardness. They turn 13, and get their own Facebook account, and suddenly some of what was so cute to us is a liability to them. The cute photo of your toddler in the bath—do you really want that photo there when she turns 13 and her friends start looking through her Facebook account? Or when she is 16 and applies for a job and the prospective employer immediately does an Internet search for her name? Will she really want that photo there?

The thing is, sooner or later your kids will become their own people, and have their own network of friends and followers. And when this happens they will find that for the past 13 years you have been building their online profile. It used to be that only the children of monarchy or celebrity had their picture taken and shared from the moment of birth. Now it’s all of them. What kind of profile will they walk into when they are old enough to care?

And now that heart-level consideration. Because our children are an extension of ourselves, we often take pictures of them and share anecdotes about them because of what these do for us. A great photo of me with my child makes me feel better about myself, and makes you feel better about me. Win-win, right? But our children start to get it. At least, mine did. They started to understand that the photos of them—some of the photos of them, at least—were really for me. I was not considering whether my children wanted to be displayed before hundreds or thousands of others—I was considering only whether I wanted them to be displayed there with me. And they had to ask me to stop. “Dad, I don’t want everyone to see this. Don’t put this on Twitter.”

At some point you need to evaluate when and why you post those pictures, and who they are really meant to serve. At least in my case, I know that so many of them were meant to serve only me. I could portray myself as a great dad or a good Christian, and use my kids as little more than props. They were props, not people, and it revealed something ugly within me.

I say all of this only to make you think, and to help you ask the simple question: What is your exit plan?

Image credit: Shutterstock

March 12, 2015

Family Technology
Even at the best of times there is nothing simple about raising children. But throw in a million new technologies—new devices and social networks and apps—and things get far more complicated still. This is every parent’s challenge today. Yesterday I offered a few tips on living well in a digital world and today I want to offer some tips on parenting well. I will use the same format: 3 things you need to put off or reject, and 3 things you need to put on or embrace.

Reject Ignorance, Embrace Education

You need to put off ignorance and in its place put on knowledge. Whenever a new technology invades society, we see a consistent pattern: the older people tend to reject it while the younger people embrace it. The older people are perfectly content with the technologies they have always known, while the younger people are excited to try something new. The younger generation surges forward and the older is left behind.

This is true of parents. Parents often feel intimidated by new technologies, so do not bother to investigate them. Instead, they hand their children devices without really understanding their power and capabilities, and that leaves the children as the ones who bear all the risk. This is what we saw at the dawn of the Internet, where parents handed their children a computer and an Internet connection, never even considering that their children might just look for and find pornography. As a consequence, we found an entire generation of young people addicted to porn. Why? Because the parents did not do what they should have done. It is easy to blame the boys, but we also need to look to those parents who did not fulfill their responsibility.

So parent, you need to reject ignorance and choose education. As new technologies come along and as existing technologies evolve, you need to remain educated about them. Before handing your children those new, shiny gadgets, or before allowing them to join those new, exciting social networks, or before letting them download the new apps everyone else is using, you need to educate yourself. Reject the temptation to be passive and ignorant, and instead force yourself to get educated.

Reject Folly, Embrace Responsibility

You need to put off foolishness and embrace responsibility. Today we are handing our children power tools and then acting shocked when they cut off their hands. This is absurd, and we should expect that our children will make serious mistakes if we do not guide them. So parent, you don’t need only to educate yourself, but also your children. You need to have a plan for introducing new technologies to your children and for monitoring them as they use them. This is your responsibility—the responsibility of having a plan.

Whatever plan you implement needs to account for both training and monitoring your children. Think about training your teenager to drive the family car. When that child turns 16 and gets his learner’s permit you would never just hand him the keys and say, “Have a good time and be back by midnight!” You would get in the car, take him to a mall parking lot and allow him to drive around in circles for a few minutes. Maybe if he did exceptionally well you would even allow him to drive home. You would instruct him, watch him, and give him greater privilege as he showed greater ability and responsibility. When it comes to a car, trust and privilege are hard-earned and quickly-forfeited. And in the same way, you have no business handing your children a mobile phone or signing them up for Facebook without providing instruction and guidance.

The Bible assures us that folly is bound up in the heart of a child. The consistent message of Proverbs is that young people are lacking in wisdom and desperately need parents to teach them how to live with virtue. This puts all the responsibility on you. When you give your child a computer, a mobile phone, or a social media account, you are giving something that has immense power. Your child can use these things to do so much good, but he can also use them to do so much evil. If folly truly is bound up in the heart of a child, you need to assume that without guidance, your child will use them for evil. You need a plan: a plan that will help teach children to use those technologies responsibly. Where should you begin? You could begin with The Porn-Free Family Plan or with my book The Next Story (the second edition, that is, which has “The Porn-Free Family Plan” as a new chapter). Don’t be a fool; instead, embrace the responsibility that God has given you.

Reject Fear, Embrace Familiarity

By this point you may be thinking that these new technologies are just too risky. You may want to take the Amish approach and find ways to keep all of these technologies far away. You may feel it, but you cannot succumb to it. After all, this is the world your children are in, and it is far better to train them now while they are under your care then to send them off ignorant. So this is your solemn responsibility before God, to train them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord even as they use a mobile phone or even as they use Facebook.

People often ask me if can predict what will become of all of these technologies exploding onto the scene around us today. I never know what to say except this: God is going to use them in unexpected and amazing ways. He will glorify himself through them; I am utterly convinced of it. How do I know? Because God has always done that through every scary technological innovation. Think about it:

  • When people first began to record things in writing instead of relying on their memories, many people were terrified, thinking that writing would breed ignorance. But God used writing in the best way—to record his Words, so even today we can find manuscripts going back thousands of years that contain what we now know as the Bible.
  • One of the greatest technologies in the Roman world was the Roman road system. It was created to quickly move soldiers from place to place so they could dominate other peoples and crush rebellion. But the same roads that carried the feet of soldiers carried the feet of missionaries who took gospel to the distant corners of world.
  • The printing press came along in the 1500s and people feared its power. But what happened? Soon the printing presses were churning out Bibles, and the Bible sparked Reformation. Not only that, but the Bible became the bestselling book of all time.
  • Radio came along and before long the gospel was being broadcast all over the world.
  • The television was invented and soon people were watching services and crusades and the gospel was flying to distant lands.
  • Digital devices allowed people to create apps, and very quickly Christians were churning out Bible apps. Already those apps extremely popular, and more and more people today are experiencing God’s Word in app form. And that’s okay. That’s beautiful. God is using digital technologies too.

We tend to think that no one has ever endured what we are enduring today. The truth is, this is a recurring pattern. Time and time again the world has witnessed technological explosions that have changed everything. Today we are at a new frontier, and we—you and I—have to do the difficult work of learning to use these things well. Instead of choosing fear, we need to choose familiarity. Instead of fearing new technologies, let’s investigate them and look for ways we can use them to advance God’s cause. Let’s investigate the benefits and the risks, and learn how to use these things to carry out God’s calling. And then let’s put them to work in doing good for others and bringing glory to God.

(If you prefer to watch than read, you may be interested in watching this talk I did at the recent Ligonier Ministries National Conference.)

Image credit: Shutterstock

March 11, 2015

Put Off Put On
The world has changed, hasn’t it? The world we live in today is not the world as it was a few years ago. In just the past few decades we have entered into a digital world, and you and I are the ones who are learning how to live in it, and how to live in it with virtue. We are the trailblazers here, learning how to use these incredible, world-changing technologies to carry out the commission God has given us. These new technologies can be used to do so much good, but they can also be used to do such evil.

When the Bible tells us how to live as Christians, it so often tells us that we need to put on and put off. It tells us that there are habits, patterns, and behaviors we need to stop, and new habits, patterns, and behaviors we need to begin. Today I want to look at 3 things we need to put off and put on as individuals, and tomorrow I will look at 3 things that we need to put off and put on as families.

(Note: Just yesterday Zondervan released a second edition of my book The Next Story and it comes complete with a few updates, an added chapter, and a new subtitle: Faith, Friends, Family, and the Digital World. It covers some of this material, plus a whole lot more.)

Reject Distraction, Embrace Focus

Put off the distraction that pollutes this digital world and instead embrace deep focus. It is no great secret that this digital world brings all kinds of new ways to be distracted. Our technologies seem to evolve toward distraction, so that every new generation of device finds new ways to call us away from one thing and toward another. Our devices beep, buzz, flash, and chirp—whatever they need to do to gain our attention. Over time we have trained ourselves to obey them, which makes me wonder: If we need to respond to our phones every time they beep or buzz, do we own them, or do they own us? As our devices evolve toward distraction, my concern is that we are becoming people who love and long for distraction. We enjoy those distractions and almost come to depend upon them.

There is a cost to this. As Christians we are responsible to grow in wisdom, but wisdom comes only with effort. Information is easy—we are surrounded by it all the time—, but wisdom comes through concentration and meditation, and through carefully applying the truths of Scripture to our lives. How can we meditate and concentrate if we are always distracted? I used a printed Bible for many years and it never once beeped or buzzed or otherwise distracted me. But when I read the Bible on my phone, I am only ever a flash or chirp away from being completely side-tracked. I am only ever a click or swipe away from indulging in Netflix or YouTube or any other number of distractions.

The consistent call of the Bible is to be people who ponder God’s Word, who ponder the world around us, and who constantly grow in wisdom. We can only do this when we break away from our distractions and choose to focus. So Christian, put off distraction and put on concentration and meditation. Control your devices so they serve you as you grow in wisdom and grow in godliness.

Reject Isolation, Embrace Visibility

Put off the isolation of anonymity and put on the accountability that comes with visibility. I have often pondered what the Admiral Lord Nelson once said, that beyond Gibraltar every man is a bachelor. What he meant is that once British sailors sailed beyond the borders of their own land and empire, they very suddenly became different people. Once they moved beyond the accountability that came with visibility, they changed. As they sailed away from civilization, and wives, and parents, and families, they also sailed away from civilized behavior. Where they were alone and unknown they were free to behave however they wanted. And they behaved very badly.

March 09, 2015

It is terrible but true—sexual predators target churches. In the mind of a predator, a church offers a compelling target and, too often, an easy target. I recently worked my way through On Guard by Deepak Reju and learned that there are at least 6 reasons why sexual predators specifically target churches.

Christians Are Naïve

Some sexual offenders state it outright—they go after churches because Christians tend to be naïve. Anna Salter says, “If children can be silenced and the average person is easy to fool, many offenders report that religious people are even easier to fool than most people.” Reju says, “Christian are, generally speaking, trusting folks. Child abusers recognize this fact and want to take full advantage of it.” He quotes a former prosecutor who lays it out: “For a variety of reasons, we naively tend to automatically lower our guard when we are amongst professing Christians. This same naïveté is why offenders flock to the faith community; no other environment provides them such quick and easy access to children without fear of raising concerns.”

Christians Are Ignorant of the Problem

Christians are not only naïve, but also ignorant—ignorant of the problem of abuse and the extent of the problem within faith communities. Many Christians consider it unlikely or impossible that abuse could happen within their church, so they fail to take adequate measures, they ignore warnings, and they disregard reports. Reju says, “Many Christians don’t know how to distinguish likability and trustworthiness. They confuse the two categories, assuming that if someone is courteous and nice, they must also be trustworthy. Moreover, some Christians behave as though the problem doesn’t exist, and some look with suspicion on reports of abuse. They believe children are lying and are more prone to take an adult’s word. Sexual predators know that these dynamics operate in churches, and they know they can get away with a lot on account of it.”

Churches Offer Access to Children

Perhaps most simply of all, churches offer access—and often very easy access—to children. Reju says this well: “Because churches are always looking for help with children’s ministry and often are facing shortages of volunteers, sexual offenders know that churches are desperate. In children’s ministry, volunteers are often late. Some cancel at the last minute when they had promised to volunteer. Others don’t even bother showing up for their service. So, when a courteous, kind, reliable man walks in and offers to help, who’s going to turn him down? No other organization provides such quick and easy access to children. Sexual predators know this, so they show up at churches, eager to make themselves known and ready to serve.”

(Many) Christians Abuse Authority

Sometimes authority is put in the hands of evil individuals who then abuse that authority by taking advantage of others. Christians are rightly taught to submit to authority, but not always warned that there are situations in which authority can and must be defied. “Child abusers will use positions of spiritual authority to gain access to children and abuse them. Ask yourself: If a pastor or priest walks into a room, what’s your normal disposition? Most of us have a degree of caution around strangers until we’ve gotten to know them and built a trusting relationship. But pastors and priests are often afforded trust just because of their position as clergy.” This, of course, has been proven again and again by sickening news headlines.

Churches Can Be Manipulated

Church offers religious roles or language that abusers can manipulate to accomplish their ugly purposes. Child abusers often use church-based roles in order to provide rationale and cover for their abuse. An offender may take on a role like Sunday school teacher, nursery worker, youth minister, camp supervisor, or pastor in order to gain the position he or she needs to access children. He may “also use religious language to confuse a child’s understanding of God, sin, or faith. An offender might tell a child that he is loving the child when in fact he is abusing him. The child might have a sense that he is sinning in some way, especially if he hears from his parents or the church that sex outside of marriage is sin. But when a Sunday school teacher or pastor or priest tells him something like, ‘God told me to do this, so you must obey me,’ or ‘This is not sin, but love,’ the child will not only be confused but will be inclined not to second-guess a religious authority figure.” Religious roles and language can provide all the cover an abuser needs.

Churches Offer Cheap Grace

Sometimes abusers are caught, but even then they may get away with their crimes. Abusers count on receiving cheap grace—grace that comes far too freely and with far too little cost. “Abusers are not dumb. They know that if they cry, offer words of contrition, and promise never to do it again, they are very likely not to have to face significant consequences. Pastors and churches are very forgiving. They are quick to apply the gospel—and very, very slow to apply the consequences that come from the law.” An offender will weep and admit that he was wrong and promise never to do anything like it again, and the church may respond by determining they will let it go this once. But when they do that, they simply allow the offender to go right back to his behavior, and allow the child to remain a victim.

In the face of all of this, it is no wonder that the Bible calls us to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). But while all of these dangers are true, and while abusers are deliberate in targeting churches, this does not mean that we are left defenseless. For that reason the bulk of Reju’s book is dedicated to creating and enforcing policies that will protect the innocent—innocent children who participate in church activities, and innocent adults who care for them. Please, will you have someone in your church read the book and see how you can better prevent abuse in your church?

You can read my review of On Guard right here. It is available at Amazon and Westminster Books.

Image credit: Shutterstock

March 05, 2015

Sadly, my time at the Inerrancy Summit has drawn to a close. Because of other commitments, I was only able to give it two days, but I am very grateful for the time I was able to spend there, and was delighted to meet so many of those who attended. As I wait for my flight home, I wanted to close out my time with a few reflections.

First, I think this summit came at the right time. The International Council on Biblical Inerrancy took place almost 40 years ago. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy was the most enduring legacy of that council and it remains today as a thorough description of inerrancy as well as a compelling call to it. Here, four decades on, I don’t think we are at a point of true crisis—I do not see a lot of conservative evangelicals wholesale rejecting inerrancy. However, why I think this summit came at the right time is that we may be at the point of assuming inerrancy. The current generation of pastors have been able to take ahold of the legacy that was given them and have not had to do the same kind of work in establishing what they believe and why they believe it. I trust that by the end of this conference their understanding and confidence will be that much deeper and that it will work itself out in their minds, in their preaching, and in their churches for many years to come.

Second, I think this summit drew the right people. It was fascinating to stand outside yesterday and to speak to a pastor from India, followed by a pastor from Poland, followed by a pastor from Germany, followed by a pastor from Russia—and all these talking to a pastor from Canada. In every case I was able to ask about the state of the church in their countries and to hear that there, too, they need to reaffirm the absolute supremacy and authority of the Word of God. This event drew men from 70 countries, and I trust that they will return to their countries with a much better and deeper appreciation of God’s Word and why it matters so, so much.

Which leads me to my third reflection: John MacArthur is an exceptional individual. I don’t say this (I hope) as a breathless fan, but as an observer. I have met him on only a couple of brief occasions, but here is what I have observed: He always owns the room. In a room full of people, everyone will look at him and gravitate to him. Is he just a particularly gregarious individual? Sure, he is. But it’s more than that. I think it must be a kind of spiritual gifting—God has gifted him to be a leader, and he has taken hold of that gift. The sheer quantity of people he has influenced through the sheer quantity of things he is involved in is simply incredible. He is a once-in-a-generation kind of leader. Yesterday in my hotel lobby I ran into a well-known Christian leader (whom I will not identify since I did not think to ask if I could quote him)—one who was not a keynote speaker at the conference but who was there anyway—and he said, “John MacArthur is the godliest man I have ever met.” I can’t disagree with him.

The Summit continues today. Here is what you can see on the livestream:

  • 1:00 PM EST - Steve Lawson
  • 2:45 PM EST - Gregory Beale
  • 7:30 PM EST - Derek Thomas
  • 10:30 PM EST - Albert Mohler

March 04, 2015

Why should you care about the Inerrancy Summit? There are, after all, hundreds of conferences every year, and it can be difficult to distinguish between them. Well, if for no other reason, you should care about this summit because there are almost 5,000 people here this week, most of them church leaders, representing 70 different countries. This is a major event that will influence many people, including current and future leaders. Not only that, but the conference brings together many of today’s most notable Christian leaders to teach, discuss, and affirm one of the most important theological issues: the inerrancy and authority of God’s Word.

John MacArthur opened the conference yesterday morning by addressing the question of why he called for this summit. He recounted attending the 1978 conference sponsored the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, and how he listened as the theologians there formed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. (He also recounted his flight home in which he sat next to Robert Schuller, of all people.)

The heart of his opening address was a list of four reasons he called for this summit.

First, the Scripture is attacked and we are called to defend it. Any reader of the Bible understands that Satan will always threaten to undermine the Word of God. What continues to surprise us is that these threats more often come from within the visible church than outside of it. Yet before God there is no greater offense than to cause people to question the veracity, inerrancy, or authority of Scripture. He went on to do a brief historical survey in which he pointed out the major challenges to the authority of the Bible through sacramentalism, rationalism, liberalism, cultism, experientialism, pragmatism, and several other damaging philosophies. His point was this: Whenever the church abandons its commitment to the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, the results are catastrophic. With eternity at stake, it is no surprise the Bible reserves its harshest condemnations for those who take away from God’s Words or who add to it.

Second, Scripture is authoritative and we are called to declare it. He went to 2 Timothy 3:16 and then several other texts to show how Scripture consistently claims to speak with the authority and voice of God. God’s Word is consistently pure and authentic, and not a word of it will ever be nullified or taken away.

Third, Scripture is accurate and we are to demonstrate it. While we can prove the authority of the Bible from within the Bible, we can also look outside of it to general revelation. MacArthur showed how the Bible accurately describes the universe and Creation and that it offers the only logical and compelling explanation as to why the world is the way it is. The Bible is always found to be accurate when it intersects with modern science. Everywhere you look in the Bible you will find consistency since, after all, this Author knows the way things really are in his world.

Fourth, the Scripture is active through the power of the Spirit and we are called to deploy it. The Bible is the means by which people are saved. The power is not in the presentation of the preacher, but inherent in the text. The Bible is sharp and powerful—more powerful than anything else. So we are saved by the Word, but also sanctified, edified, comforted, and instructed by it. There are lots of books that can change your thinking, but only one that can change your nature and your eternal destiny. The simple fact is that when we preach the Word we deploy the instrument the Holy Spirit uses to do his supernatural work.

MacArthur’s final call was to the pastors attending, telling them “You cannot be an expositor of Scripture if you have a weak view of the Bible.”

So why does this conference matter? Because I trust and hope that it will raise a new banner for the absolute importance of the doctrine of inerrancy. We are a long way from 1978, and this event will bring the issue to front-center for a whole new generation of leaders.

While the livestream experienced significant difficulty yesterday, you should have more success following it today. If you would like a session by session liveblog, you can find it here at the site for The Master’s Seminary. Today you will hear from:

  • 1:00 PM EST - Miguel Nuñez
  • 2:45 PM EST - Carl Trueman
  • 7:30 PM EST - Ian Hamilton
  • 10:30 PM EST - Mark Dever

March 03, 2015

John MacArthur’s Inerrancy Summit begins today, and I couldn’t be more excited. Yesterday I hopped a flight from Toronto to Los Angeles so I could be a part of it or, at least, so I could do a bit of writing about it. While I do not intend to provide live-blogging, I will certainly be sharing some updates and reflections on what promises to be an historic event. (Note: You can watch the entire thing online, beginning today at 1 PM EST.) (Another Note: For those who are here, I will be leading a panel discussion at 1:30 on Wednesday.)

One of the very first Christian books I ever read was by James Montgomery Boice who said that, as far as he could see, the battle for inerrancy had already largely been fought and won. He was writing almost two decades ago and at that point it certainly looked as if he was correct. Boice and others were turning their attention to subsequent doctrines of the Bible such as the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. But, as is often the case, the discussion about inerrancy has resurfaced, which means it is time for believers to renew their understanding of the doctrine and reestablish their confidence in it. And that is exactly my hope for this week’s conference, which features quite an impressive list of speakers.

As the week proceeds, I intend to look for specific things that I think will be especially helpful to me.

  • I would like to see a common, simple, and established definition of inerrancy. I assume we will be directed to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy from 1978, but am eager to see whether the theologians here suggest improving or updating it.
  • I would like to see a common understanding of what it really means to deny inerrancy. What the consequences and implications are for those who cannot affirm the truth and whole truth of Scripture? Do we need to break fellowship with these people? Or can we peacefully co-exist even within the same local churches?
  • I would like to learn how to speak truth with love to those who are wrestling with issues related to inerrancy, and how to show them the cost of their theology.
  • I would like to hear the theologians here deal carefully with some of the challenges to inerrancy and to look honestly at the best arguments against inerrancy (which will be the theme of the panel discussion I will be leading on Wednesday).

For those who cannot be here, please let me know what would be helpful for you to know or to learn. What can I find out, or what can I write about, that might be helpful to you? And, if you’d like to pose a question for the panel I will be leading, what do you consider some of the most significant challenges to inerrancy?

Stay tuned to the blog and to the live-stream, and I will update again either later today or first thing tomorrow.

February 26, 2015

The “I love you.” You know the words, and you know the weight they carry. Recently Aileen and I were remembering back to the first time we said those words to one another. Each of us already knew how the other felt, but that did nothing to temper the thrill of actually voicing it and the joy of actually hearing it.

“I love you” marks a milestone in a relationship, and not only a romantic one. Friendships also thrive and deepen with the admission and declaration of love. “I love you” says that this is no mere acquaintance, but a true, deep, and meaningful friendship. I hate that our society threatens the love of friendship by the suspicion of homosexuality, and I want us to push back and to declare that we can love one another in the best and purest way.

But as I considered the importance of the “I love you” I found myself pondering three other words that also cause a relationship to grow and to thrive. A friend recently said something or did something he should not have, and later approached me and so-humbly and so-kindly said, “Please forgive me.” I forgave him, of course. Who am I, a man who has been forgiven so much, that I should withhold forgiveness from anyone else, and especially from someone I love? And I know that in that moment our relationship deepened. It grew in the exchange, in the transaction, of repentance and forgiveness. I felt it, and I knew it.

So I thought about those words and I thought about my friendships. And I believe a relationship grows just as much through “Please forgive me” as through “I love you.” One friend speaking to another and saying, “I love you”—this is where love is declared. But one friend approaching another to express remorse and seek forgiveness—this is where love is displayed and preserved.