I lost a friend last year.
This was someone I had known for more than half my life. The hurt I felt ran deep. I felt betrayed, and honestly, I felt like I could never forgive her. Have you had that feeling before?
Maybe you’ve had a fight with a friend. Or a betrayal from a spouse. Or a past hurt from a family member.
If these things are just the tip of the iceberg for you, what happens when someone else harms you or physically hurts a family member? What does the Bible say about forgiveness then?
How can we forgive someone when those things happen? Do we have to forgive the person who drove drunk and killed someone?
Before we see what the Bible says, we need to define what forgiveness is not.
What is forgiveness
Forgiveness is not absolving consequences. A drunk driver who kills someone will still have consequences. It also doesn’t mean you have to forget everything. There are some things we need to remember so we can have healthy boundaries with people.
A friend of mine borrowed a stroller wagon from me last year. When it was finally returned, it was broken and pieces were missing. I forgave her for breaking something of mine, but I probably will think twice about letting her borrow something like that again. It’s okay to forgive and hold boundaries with people. So what does the Bible actually say about forgiveness? Actually, a lot.
Scriptures on forgiveness
- You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. Psalm 86:5
- Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
- As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
- He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
- For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
- For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.
And these are just a few of the many verses on forgiveness. Now, let’s explore a few truths when it comes to forgiveness.
Why is it important to forgive?
First, we need forgiveness. The truth is no one on earth is perfect. We all have made mistakes and are in need of forgiveness.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:8-9
The good news is that even though we are in need of forgiveness, we know that Jesus is faithful to forgive us. We need forgiveness before we can forgive others.
Second, we forgive because we are forgiven.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Jesus paid the highest price for us. He forgave our sins, and because of that great forgiveness, we too can forgive others.
Jesus actually told a parable in Matthew 18 about an unmerciful servant. The servant was forgiven on his debt and left and refused to show the same mercy to someone who had owed him a smaller debt. At the end, the lender to the servant finds out how he treated the person who owed him money and has him thrown in jail.
It’s easy to read a story and understand how wrong it is for the servant to not forgive the small amount of debt after being forgiven of a great debt. But, often that is what we are doing when we do not forgive others.
We have been forgiven a great debt and we should forgive. I realize it’s easier said than done, but remember forgiveness doesn’t take away consequences. It does let go of the bitterness you feel.
How do I forgive others?
The truth is, unforgiveness doesn’t hurt the other person. I have heard it said that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die from it.
The Bible says it like this:
Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.
When we dwell on the faults of others, it can separate friends and have bitterness take root and grow in our hearts.
How do we keep this from happening? Ask God to help you forgive. Pray and tell God your frustrations and hurt. Tell God you want to forgive the person, with His help. What is impossible to forgive in our own strength is possible with God.
And then, we often have to keep forgiving people. How many times do we keep forgiving? Jesus answers that question:
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Jesus rewrote the narrative on forgiveness. He threw out the old rules on forgiveness, which put a number on the amount of times we should forgive someone. I’m thankful he keeps forgiving me.
Ultimately, forgiveness brings freedom in our life. When we forgive, it really sets us free. Forgiveness can take time, but I’ve found that it’s always worth it.
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