Forgiveness: What Does the Bible Say About Forgiveness?

Matthew 6:14-15  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.

The basic point of this post is that if you want forgiveness from our Father, you’re going to have to give it to others; whether you think they deserve it or not.  This is a truly difficult concept and I’ve recently had my eyes opened into what forgiveness actually is and I’d like to share that with you.

What I’ve seen in a LOT of people who say they are Christian is verbally saying they forgive someone, but almost punishing them through resentment and anger afterward.  This is not forgiveness.  This is giving in to a guilty pleasure we all secretly enjoy, and that’s letting our anger grow and take us over.  Let’s face it, when we are hurt, it feels really good to be mad at the person who hurt us.  It’s very gratifying and it feels like we’ve almost earned the right to be mad and tear the person down.  But God hasn’t called us to give in to what ‘feels good’.  We are called to walk with Him, following all the commands He has given us.

My favorite verse regarding forgiveness and resentment is 2 Corinthians 2:7, “…so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.”  This sums it up perfectly for me.  This person caused you sorrow; broke your heart.  Does it really make anything better punishing them and causing them sorrow?  Honestly, I think it’s worse to do this because it requires a lot of thought and energy and a lot of times when people hurt us, they don’t even do it intentionally.  This is a calculated approach, which God warns us against in Proverbs 6:16-19.  “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him; haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”  I’m going to dissect this verse a little more relating to our topic.

Haughty eyes – pride and arrogance, which is the root of most sin.  Withholding forgiveness, true forgiveness, is a lot of times a pride issue.  We think we can’t forgive that person because they are so beneath us with what they’ve done.  “I would never do that to anyone,” we think.  But the truth is, we have done some truly awful things to others.  Just because we sin differently, doesn’t mean it’s any less of a sin against God.

A lying tongue – Sometimes we are tempted to spread rumors about someone who has hurt us or amplify the truth to make it sound even worse.  This certainly doesn’t help anyone.  And when we do finally forgive this person, it causes a lot of regret on our part.

A heart that devises wicked plans – How much time do we spend thinking about how we can punish this person?  Maybe it’s just constantly coming up with sarcastic responses to them or throwing out insulting digs whenever we can.  All that time and energy wasted when we could be focused on our relationship with God and furthering His kingdom.

One who sows discord among brothers – This one hits me pretty hard.  Because when I was withholding forgiveness, I wanted everyone else to dislike the person as well.  I wanted to be justified in my behavior, even though there was no justification.  But people sure are ready to make you feel justified, aren’t they?!  That’s a dangerous and slippery slope to be on.

A lot of times I hear people say something like, But let me tell you what they did, then you will understand why I can’t forgive them!  Listen, I understand this feeling.  I really do.  I’ve said it many, MANY times myself.  It doesn’t matter what they did.  Forgiveness isn’t an option or a choice for us.  It is commanded to us by our Father and reinforced even more by Jesus Christ.  Forgiveness is what we are called to do.

Just to be clear, forgiveness doesn’t mean we accept when people are awful to us as ‘just the way it is’.  But it does give freedom to both parties.  Sometimes, for our own safety or mental health, we still have to distance ourselves from the one who hurt us.  This is okay.  There’s nothing wrong with having boundaries, but that doesn’t mean we withhold forgiveness.

One concept people struggle with, I know I certainly did (do), was a mindset of I will forgive them this time, but if they hurt me again, no way!  Well, this isn’t right either.  And I’m ashamed to admit I was exactly like this.  And it had me just searching for another wrong against me so I had that reason to be angry and unforgiving.  Let’s ask Jesus about this, shall we?  Matthew 18:21-22 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-seven times.”

Bitterness is a really self-gratifying feeling.  But it is very dangerous.  The longer we sit in our resentment and anger, the harder it is to come out of it.  If you are struggling with this, please consider the prayer below to start healing your heart and living a life that is pleasing to our heavenly Father.  And remember, forgiveness is not optional for Christians, we are instructed to do it.  If you need help getting there, feel free to reach out to me, your church leaders, or a friend who has a very solid Christian foundation (this is very important).

Prayer for a Forgiving Heart:  Heavenly Father, my Lord, you instruct me to forgive others and I’m struggling with it.  I want to give in to my anger, and I want to punish this person for hurting me.  I know this goes against your Word.  I’ve been sinning against you in my anger, and I am so sorry.  Please forgive me.  Please help me to remove this anger from my heart, and to be able to forgive others as you call me to do.  I love you, my God, my Savior.  I pray for these things in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Thank you all for reading.  I hope this helps even just one of you to let go of the bitterness a broken heart can lead us to.

Love in Christ,