In part one of our Forgiveness series, we took at look at what the Bible has to say about God’s forgiveness for us. We all need that forgiveness because we are incapable of being sinless.
In part two, we are turning our attention to what God calls us to do when it comes to forgiving others when they sin against us.
So, what does the Bible have to say about forgiving others? Let’s take a look.
Before we get to the Scriptures. Let’s be honest with ourselves. We don’t like forgiving those who have wronged us. Sometimes it’s difficult. Sometimes it seems unnatural and even impossible. We want justice, fairness, and sometimes…revenge.
God, however, calls us to show mercy, grace, and forgiveness to those that have wronged us. We are called to let it go, forgive the person, and to do it quickly.
Sometimes that’s easier said than done, depending on the wrong that was done to us. I’ve personally had some struggles with this over the years when it comes to letting go of past hurts and forgiving people. But, with the instruction of God’s Word and the help of the Holy Spirit I have been able to let go and move forward.
The Bible has a lot to say about this and in this article, we are going to take a look at 5 particular passages about forgiving others:
Ephesians 4:32 – Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Paul addresses the church in Ephesus with a straightforward directive:
Forgive each other.
Notice that he adds “just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Colossians 3:13 – Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Just as he did in Ephesus, Paul addresses this with the church in Colosse as well. He tells them to bear with each other and forgive each other. I like how writes “whatever” grievances they had with each other.
Sometimes it’s the little things that we hold on that begin to grow and become bigger problems. The faster we let things go the better off we will be.
As Scripture also says: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger…” (Ephesians 4:26).
I like how he mentions “bear with each other” here. Some of us we need to start developing some thicker skin and stop letting these little things get to us in the first place. It can be tough. People annoy us, aggravate us, and do things that make us angry…often without even realizing that they are doing it.
We might need to work on our own tolerance for other people as well.
Matthew 6:14,15 – For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
This along with the next verse we will look at are very strong words from Jesus that we need to take notice of. These words are often glossed over or even ignored in many pulpits today. Why? Because it makes us uncomfortable to hear it. It’s a tough pill to swallow.
The words in this particular verse come at the end of “The Lord’s Prayer”. The prayer many of us have memorized and recite together on Sunday mornings with our congregation. But we always stop short of a very important instruction from the Author of that prayer.
There is little to add to what Jesus says here. It’s plain and simple. But, to summarize:
To be forgiven, we must forgive.
If we don’t forgive, we won’t be forgiven.
Mark 11:25 – And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.
Jesus reiterates His message:
Don’t hold anything against ANYONE. Forgive him SO THAT God will forgive you.
I want to clear up something that I’ve witnessed among fellow believers. Yes, Paul’s letters are addressed specifically to Christians at the various churches. I’ve heard arguments that we, as believers, are only to forgive other believers when they sin against us. But, if we look at the words of Christ, we see that He clearly says “ANYONE”.
This is one of the things that can push us outside of our comfort zone and can make a difference to the world around us.
There are people (Christian or not), who are NEVER sorry, who don’t feel a tiny bit of remorse for what they’ve done or words that they’ve spoken to us. Who do some of the nastiest, most hurtful stuff imaginable. Yet, Jesus tells us that we need to forgive them.
We need to remember this the next time we are tempted to think or say, “I’ll never be able to forgive you for this.”
Matthew 18:21-35 – Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that happened. Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all that he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will teach each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
This is a powerful illustration that drives home Jesus’ point of the importance of forgiving others.
Peter begins this conversation by asking Jesus how many times he is supposed to forgive someone who sins against him. Translations differ over the proper Greek to English equivalent; 77 times, 70 times 7 times, etc.
For me, I think Jesus’ point isn’t how many times as if we were to keep a tally against those in our lives.
How many times do we want God to forgive us for the sinful things we do? Seriously, what if God said, “I’ll only forgive you 77 times.”?
In fact, the Bible also tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:5 that love “keeps no record of wrongs.” (NIV)
Jesus, as He typically does, addresses the true heart of the matter and illustrates it with a powerful parable.
Let’s not be like the wicked servant who, by his actions, shows his complete lack of appreciation for the grace, mercy, and forgiveness just given to him by the way he treats his own servant.
Bottom line: Don’t be like the wicked servant. Forgive others and move on.
Forgiving Others is a Great Witnessing Tool
One of the great benefits of forgiving a non-believer (and actually going to them and telling them that you are forgiving them) is that it’s a great ice breaker for sharing your faith.
For one thing, it will help strengthen your relationship with that person. They may not realize that they have even hurt you in some way. But you taking that step towards reconciliation will create some dialogue.
Sure they may look at you like you are weird. But I guarantee you that it will get them thinking about their own situations and relationships.
Forgiving Others is Often More for YOU than it is for THEM
Hanging on to a grudge is one of the most draining things we can do. It drains us mentally, emotionally, and Spiritually. It causes us anxiety and even depression. It stunts our growth by keeping us trapped in the past and it often destroys relationships.
But to let go. To declare, “I’m not going to let this control my life any longer, I refuse to hold onto this burden.” is liberating. It’s relief. It’s freedom.
Don’t Wait For The Apology
Stop waiting for people who have wronged you to feel guilty about their actions and come to you asking for your forgiveness. Most of the time it’s not going to happen. Take the initiative. If God has put it on your heart to go to someone and forgive them, do it. Now is His timing and He wants to do something great in both of your lives.
Follow God’s leading, swallow your pride, and be free.
Live To Forgive
Sometimes when we are dealing with forgiveness it’s something minor, over something stupid, and blown way out of proportion. But then there are other times. Times that the wounds are deep. Times when the unthinkable situations have been done to us, and even by those who were the closest to us.
King David mentions this in Psalm 41 as he’s crying out to God about his enemies and false friends.
It’s not always easy to let stuff go. You may be thinking, I could never forgive so and so for this thing that they did to me.
Maybe you can’t. There are some things that require the full transformational power of God to be able to forgive. If we cry out to God in those times, He will help.
Remember: Forgiving doesn’t mean that we are allowing that person to be in that same position to hurt us again. It just means that we are canceling their debt and allowing ourselves to move on and be free.
There are times when God will call us to the extreme, but He will give us the power to overcome those circumstances. He will give us the strength, the courage, and help us (over time) to overcome the hurt. We just have to be willing and give it to Him.
There is a movie/documentary that illustrates the power of forgiveness. It’s convicting, compelling and motivating. Check out the trailer here:
How far are you willing to go? Who is God prompting you to forgive right now? Are you ready to at least bring it to Him and ask Him to lead you in the process? He will help and if nothing else, it’ll give you some freedom. Don’t hold it back any longer.
Before you go, check out this lyric music video by Matthew West, followed by the meaning of the song. It’s a touching story that will continue to motivate you along the way.
What about you? What stories do you have where God has moved your heart to forgive someone? Start or join in a discussion in the comments below.