There are two types of forgiveness we will talk about today, God’s forgiveness to sinners and the consequential responsibility Christians have to forgive others. Both are equally important because we learn how to forgive others by learning how God forgives us. So, what does the Bible say about forgiveness and our responsibility to forgive others? Let’s take a look…
Definition of Forgiveness
First, before we dive into what the Bible says about forgiveness, let us consider the definition of forgiveness. Forgiveness means to wipe the slate clean or to pardon someone’s wrong doing. According to Merriam-Webster, forgiveness is the attitude of someone willing to forgive another person. To forgive means to stop feeling anger towards someone or something that has done you wrong.
What Does the Bible Say about Forgiveness?
The Bible says God demonstrated his love for us in that while we were yet still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 8:5, KJV). It also says there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1, KJV). If you ask God to forgive your sins, God will forgive you. Once you are forgiven, you need to forgive yourself. The scripture says love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). God’s love covers you, your mistakes, and your imperfections.
Bible verses about Forgiveness of Sin
- He’s faithful to forgive and cleans you from all unrighteousness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
- He’ll make your sins white as snow. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).
- When we rebel against God, His mercies are sufficient to forgives us. “To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgiveness’s, though we have rebelled against him (Daniel 9:9)
- Jesus asked the Father to forgive us before going to the cross. “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots” (Luke 23:34).
- God forgives hidden faults. “Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults” (Psalms 19:12).
- Confess to the Lord your transgressions and He will forgive you. “I acknowledge my sin unto [you], and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and [you forgave] the iniquity of my sin. Selah” Psalm 32:5.
What Does the Bible Say about Forgiving Others?
Learning to forgive is hard. Especially when you are hurt by someone you love and trust. Some of you hurt because you were cheated on. Your spouse committed adultery and was found unfaithful. Others hurt because they were verbally, physically, or sexually abused (rape or molested). A few of you have been lied to, mistreated, and neglected. This is not everyone’s story, but this is the reality of some.
Whatever your story is, God can heal the broken pieces of your life. However, to initiate the healing process you must take the first step and forgive. The beneficiary of forgiveness is not the recipient, but the forgiver. Forgiveness begins with you.
Bible Verses about Forgiving Others
- Matthew 6:14-15: “If [you] forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if [you] forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
- Colossians 3:13: “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do [you].”
- Ephesians 4:32: “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake [has] forgiven you.”
- Luke 6:37: “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.”
- John 8:7: “So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
- Luke 17:3-4: “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.”
How many times should I forgive?
Matthew 18:21-22 says, “Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times? No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”
What does this mean? Seventy times seven is a metaphoric expression to forgive unmeasurably. Without count or record. The scripture says love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5), therefore there is no limit to the number of times we are to forgive others.
If someone hurts you once, forgive them. If the same person hurts you again, whether they ask for forgiveness or not, you are to forgive them. Think about it like this – if Jesus can forgive our sins repeatedly and remember them no more when we repent and ask for forgiveness, as followers of Christ we can do the same for others.
Does the Bible say to Forgive and Forget?
While it is ideal to forgive and forget, this is not scriptural. The Bible commands us to forgive. It does not command us to forget. However, choosing to “forget” does not mean the offense never happened. It does not mean the offender is “off the hook”. It means you choose not to dwell on the actions that hurt you. You stop reliving the moment in your mind. This is the power of forgiving and forgetting. You nullify the emotional power hurt has over you. In doing so, healing can perform its perfect work in your life.
What Does the Bible Say About Forgiveness and Holding Grudges?
Matthew 6:14-15 says, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Choosing not to forgive does more damage to you than it does to the person you choose not to forgive. If you do not forgive, God will not forgive you. When you consider the cost, holding a grudge is not worth it. You absolutely need God’s forgiveness. Without it, you remain in sin with no option of redemption.
In addition, refusing to forgive affects your prayer life. You can literally hinder prayers from being answered because of the grudge you hold in your heart. Jesus says in Mark 11:25 “when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins too.”
Jesus tells us to forgive before coming to Him in prayer. Take that in for a moment. What grudges are you holding onto? Even if you feel justified, who do you need to forgive? As a Christian, your prayer life is vital. It is how you communicate with God. It is also how you make your petition and supplication known to God. You can not afford to not forgive.
Secondly, consider if you have offended someone. If someone is holding a grudge against you, ask for their forgiveness. Matthew 5:23-25 states, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”
It is worth noting, if someone does not accept your apology, do not carry guilt in your heart for their unforgiveness. You have done your part as a follower of Christ. You can request forgiveness, but you can not make someone forgive you.
A Call to Action: Forgive Your Enemies, Family, and Friends
According to MayoClinic, there are several benefits of forgiving others. Letting go and forgiving can lead to:
- Healthier relationships
- Greater spiritual and psychological well-being.
- Less anxiety, stress and hostility.
- Lower blood pressure.
- Fewer symptoms of depression.
- Stronger immune system.
- Improved heart health.
- Higher self-esteem.
I want to focus on healthier relationships for a moment. When you learn to forgive others, you set an atmosphere that fosters healthier relationships. Think about it. It is difficult to cultivate healthy relationships when you hold onto unforgiveness and resentment.
I know from personal experience the toll unforgiveness has on your health. Your performance at work plummets, and you are not your best self. This is not good. Depression is real. Stress and anxiety is real too. You stand more to lose when you choose not to forgive.
5 Practical steps to forgiveness and healing
I want to share with you 5 easy steps to forgiving someone. The Lord had me do this a few years ago. I found it helpful and I hope you do too.
- Grab Pen and Paper. I am serious. Stop right now, get a pen/pencil and a sheet of paper.
- Write down names. Be honest with yourself. Write the names of every individual that has hurt you. This may include family members and friends, peers and co workers. Whoever they are, write their names down.
- Write down the offense. Next to every name, write in detail what the person has done to hurt you. You should find this step therapeutic because you are channeling your hurts on paper. It may hurt to recall the offense, but understand before it can get better, you must first deal with the hurt.
- Release and Forgive. Now that you have your list of names and offenses compiled, it is time to release yourself from the hurt and pain. Forgive them. When I got to this step, I went over every name and said, “I forgive you.” This was my response to every person on my list although they had not asked for forgiveness. What a powerful thing to forgive a person although they never asked for it. Remember, forgiveness benefits the forgiver. We all need forgiveness. Even those who don’t ask for it.
- Renew Your Heart. After I release and forgive, I oftentimes pray, “Lord, help my heart to match my confession.” Forgiveness does not happen overnight, it is a process.
What Does the Bible Say about Forgiveness and Forgiving Others: Final Words
Today, choose to forgive. Free yourself from hurt, pain, bondage and anything else that will compromise your relationship with God. There is freedom in doing so. Look deep within your heart and ask God to reveal where there is unforgiveness. If there is someone you have not forgiven, forgive them.
If you have a hard time forgiving someone, ask God to change your heart and He will. God examines our hearts and is pleased with those that honestly seek to do right. There is nothing worth holding on to that will compromise your walk with Christ. It starts with you. When you forgive, God forgives and you are free. That’s the power of forgiveness. Forgive and you shall be forgiven.
Father, I ask for your forgiveness of everything I have done knowingly and unknowingly displeasing in your sight. I repent and ask for your forgiveness.
Father, just as you have forgiven me, I choose to forgive everyone that has hurt me knowingly and unknowingly. Help me to not hold grudges in my heart. I release every hurt I have to you. In exchange, I receive your love, peace, and healing. Let forgiveness perform its perfect work in my heart.
Thank you God for forgiving me. Thank you for helping me to forgive others. In Jesus name, Amen!