10 Things the Bible Teaches Us About Forgiveness

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A couple of years ago, my childhood friend and I had a falling out. It started out as an issue between our families that boiled over to us. Not being able to control ourselves, we said things we shouldn’t have, and a once close friend vanished from my life. At some point, we both apologized, forgiveness was granted and all our wounds were healed. But the relationship was never the same again. I think it’s fair to say we’ve all been through this. We’ve hurt someone or somebody has hurt us, and if we think about it, a relationship between two sinners that has no forgiveness will never work out. We might be the ones needing forgiveness, and sometimes we are the ones that need to forgive.

Even though we should be more accustomed to it, it seems that most of us have a mistaken view about forgiveness and its impact, not only from a spiritual point of view but also emotionally and physically.

The motive doesn’t matter, whether it’s a simple argument with your spouse or long-held resentment toward a member of your family or a long-time friend. Any unresolved conflict can go deeper than you might think.

Luckily, studies have found that forgiving can have huge rewards for your health, and it lowers the risk of heart attack, but also improves cholesterol levels and sleep. It also reduces pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. Research also shows that the connection between forgiveness and health is even more important the more you age.

To obtain a better understanding of why we should remind ourselves what the Bible has to say about forgiveness:

1. We all need to forgive

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

From a spiritual point of view, we are all sinners, eternally separated from God. We’d be completely lost in this world without Him intervening and offering us constant forgiveness. I sometimes think about how many times I’ve messed up. Each and every time, God was there, waiting for me with open arms to offer His forgiveness.

It was the same story in my marriage as well, particularly in the early years. My husband offered his forgiveness. It’s so much easier to extend forgiveness to others when we are completely aware of the grace we have been shown.

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2. Forgiving others is essential to our own absolution

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). 

This is an extremely difficult verse to process. God is here ready and willing to forgive us all, but He asks that we extend the same forgiveness to others first. If we have any kind of resentment and bitterness in our hearts, it’s time to give it over to God. He’ll know what to do with it. Let Him heal us from all of our wounds and give us the ability to forgive. Our eternity is dependent on it.

3. Lack of forgiveness can break out fellowship with God

“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24)

The Bible is very straightforward when talking about harboring bitterness in our hearts. It’s definitely a sin. If we’re not actively aware of it and seeking to kill it, it will break our relationship with God. We won’t experience and receive everything that God has to offer us.

4. We owe each other forgiveness even though we’re not asking for it

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” (Matthew 18:15)

How frequently do you hold resentment against someone when you feel they should have apologized to you? When we are wronged, we expect the person to come to us and apologize. Even though that is the right thing to do, the Bible doesn’t place that requirement on forgiveness.

God wants us to be the initiators in this transaction. We should go to our sister or brother and talk it out, without waiting for someone else to come to us. It can be extremely difficult, but it’s essential in being able to move forward.

5. We owe forgiveness to those who may not have earned it

“And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7:59-60)

To Forgive may be hard, and doing it over and over again can seem impossible. But with the God’s help, we can do anything. Jesus was clear in his passage that there wasn’t a “final straw” that warrants us withholding our forgiveness.

A “final straw” doesn’t exist with God. But just to be extremely clear, this doesn’t mean that we should allow others to take advantage of our forgiveness. Holding on to resentment will only take our joy away while doing no harm to the other party.

We should constantly forgive only because God commands it and He knows what’s best for us.

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6. We owe others a boundless amount of understanding

“Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22)

Forgiving may be hard, but doing it over and over again can seem impossible. But with the help of God, we can do anything. Jesus is clear in this passage that there is no “final straw” that warrants us withholding our forgiveness.

God doesn’t have a “final straw” for us. But just to be extremely clear, this doesn’t mean that we should allow others to take advantage of our forgiveness. Holding on to resentment will only take our joy away while doing no harm to the other party.

We should constantly forgive only because God commands it and He knows what’s best for us.

7. Choosing not to forgive results in consequences

“And in anger, his master delivered him to be the jailers until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:34-35)

God takes forgiveness very seriously, and this parable is proof. If we don’t forgive others, there will be eternal consequences. While this is a scary thought, and it challenges me to evaluate my own heart, I remember Psalm 139:23, where it says “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” and it helps me clear my mind.

8. Jesus, our best example, forgave

“And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7)

We can now understand better what Jesus was writing on the ground. It could have been a list of the Pharisees’ sins. What we do know is that Jesus wants us to first examine our own lives, instead of focusing on the actions of others.

It’s much easier to forgive others when we understand better our own faults. Jesus forgives you, and lovingly encourages you to change your ways: “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:11). We have to always follow Jesus’s example and do the same.

9. He gives us the ability to forgive other people

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32)

Forgiveness is one of the toughest things that God asks us to do. But the good news is He will never let us go through this alone. He gave us Jesus as an example. And He constantly reinforces us with His power through the Holy Spirit.

10. After forgiveness comes only love, even if forgetting isn’t possible

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8)

Sometimes things happen with us that we simply cannot forget, even if we can forgive. While we can’t erase it from our memory, we do control our actions. We are still able to love those who have wronged us after forgiving them.

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