Forgiveness According to the Bible
What is Forgiveness?
There are three different ways one can forgive according to the Oxford Dictionary:
- One can stop feeling angry or resentful against another person for an offense, flaw or mistake.
- One can no longer wish to feel angry or punish a person for an offense, flaw or a mistake
- One can cancel a debt
To me, all are the same thing. To forgive is to let go of anger and resentment and the wish for retribution that is owed to you. You can literally forgive someone by cancelling a debt when they owe you money but you can also forgive someone by cancelling a debt when they owe you for a sin (or sins) that they have committed against you.
The Parable On Forgiveness
In the Bible, Jesus used a parable to teach the people about forgiveness. He told the story of a ruler who lent money to one of his subjects. when the subject was called to pay his debt he could not and the ruler forgave him for it. Later, that same man went to someone who owed him money and when that man confessed that he could not pay it back, instead of showing mercy and compassion as it has been showed to him, he cast him into prison and made him stay there until he paid the debt. When the ruler who had forgiven his servant heard what his servant had done to someone else he became angry with him and sent him punished him for his debt just as he had punished the other. (Matthew 18:21-35)
When asked how often we should forgive, Jesus says 'Seventy times seven'. At the end of the parable Jesus told His disciples that this is the same way we would be treated by God in heaven if we did not forgive others their sins for we ourselves have sinned against God.
C.H. Spurgeon's sermon on Forgiveness (1855)
Jesus' Prayer - The Our Father
Jesus also mentioned forgiveness when He taught the disciples (after they had asked Him) to pray. The prayer that is now referred to as the 'Our Father' contains the words 'forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors' (Matthew 6:11-13) This prayer is an example of the way that we should pray to the Lord God in heaven.
Everyone has something that they need to be forgiven for. There is no one on earth, nor has there ever been anyone on earth, save for the Lord Jesus Christ, who has not committed an offense that they needed forgiveness from. Even if there is no man who can bring an accusation against him, mankind has sinned against God.
According to the Bible, and to Jesus Christ, we must forgive as the Lord forgives us. His mercy and compassion are undeserved and by forgiving others we show that we understand that we do not deserve His gift of forgiveness.
The Sin of King David
Many men (really all men) in the Bible sinned and needed forgiveness for that sin but King David's sin with Bathsheba is perhaps one of the better known transgressions.
When he was at home one day, he happened to see a young woman taking her bath and from that moment he desired her. After he found out that she was married to one of his most devoted warriors, he sent for her and sinned the sin of adultery. He tried to cover it up by bringing Uriah back to be with his wife but the loyal soldier refused and so David had him cunningly killed. One sin committed led to another sin. He thought that his sin was a secret but the Lord knew and sent the prophet Nathan to let him know that he would be punished for it.
When David was confronted by Nathan and the truth of his sin was brought to light, he repented and said," I have sinned against the LORD." After he admitted his sin and repented, Nathan said to him, "The LORD hath also put away thy sin; thou shalt not die." As a result of his sin, David lost the first child that he had with Bathsheba. (See 2 Samuel 11-12)
David immediately recognized that his sin went against the commandments of God. All of us, when we sin, go against the commandments of God. We break the law and so we sin against Him. When a person sins, however, there is a consequence. God told David that his consequence would be the loss of his son and although David prayed that his son would live, God did not answer his prayer because his action had a consequence. All sins have consequences.
Do you have a tough time forgiving people?
Why Should I Forgive?
The obvious answer to this, according to the Bible, is that God forgives us. If we repented and He forgave us of our sins then we should show the same mercy to others. Forgiving people does not mean that they get away with sin. It means that you harbor no ill will toward them.
Harboring no ill will toward others actually is a great accomplishment because people who cannot get over a wrong that has happened often suffer with things like: depression, anxiety, ulcers, and even cancer.
I have known many people who have not forgiven and cannot forgive who make themselves very ill because of it. Meanwhile, the person who did the crime walks around completely unaffected by their wicked deed and is in the perfect picture of health! We should forgive if only to help us to feel well!
Those who forgave in the Bible
- David (forgave Saul and his son Absalom)
- Joseph (forgave his brothers who ploted to kill him and sold him into slavery)
- Moses (forgave the children of Israel, his brother Aaron and his sister Miriam who wanted his authority with God)
- Job (forgave his friends for falsely accusing him of wrongdoing in the sight of God)
- Stephen (forgave those who stoned him to death)
- Jesus (forgave Peter, forgave the adulterous woman, forgave those who put Him to death, forgave Thomas for doubting, forgave the Jews, forgave the Israelites, forgave the world for the sin)
- God the Father ( forgave Cain for killing Abel, forgave Sarah for laughing, forgave Moses for doubting, forgave many other kings and prophets, forgave the Israelites for idolatry many times, forgave the world for sin by sending HIs only Son so that we might be saved)
BBC documentary on Joseph who forgave his brothers after their betrayal
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"
Jeremiah 17:9 K.J.V.
How Do I Know That I Have Truly Forgiven?
The Bible says that above all things the heart is the most deceitful. It is very likely that sometimes we say that we forgive, we believe that we have forgiven but because we remember the sin against us we doubt ourselves. Have we really forgiven or not?
The truth is that sometimes we have and sometimes we have not. We must test ourselves in order to find out the depth of our forgiveness. If there is anger that still resides in us when we replay the incident ( or incidents) in our minds, then we will know that we have not forgiven. If there is no anger then we will know that we have forgiven and simply remember what happened. Just because we remember an incident does not mean that we have not forgiven.
And what about when someone has a very destructive habit and continues to hurt themselves and the people around them? Do you continue to try to help them while they hurt you? Well, that is up to you. If the hurt does not affect you spiritually then perhaps you can continue but if it does affect you then you can say, 'No thanks' and keep yourself at a distance. This does not translate to being unforgiving but rather trying to keep yourself from having resentment. In situations like this one, prayer is very necessary, and will guide you to the right decision. When I am able to pray for the person without malice in my heart then I know that I have forgiven.
How Do I Forgive?
I know quite a few people who give a sort of Math formula for forgiveness but when it comes to forgiveness it is different for everybody.
When someone has done something wrong and they have hurt you it is hard to acknowledge the hurt in the first place and it is hard admitting to them (or someone else) that they have hurt you. It is much easier to say that a person has made you angry than to say that a person has hurt you. Perhaps it is because people who can hurt you deeply have your love.
For me, personally, I try to face it until I do not have any anger anymore. I ask God to help me to see the incident with compassion and to let it go as He let go of my sins against Him. Remembering the amount that I have been forgiven for makes it a bit easier to forgive others. I still cannot do it myself and I know that it is only with the help of God that I am able to forgive. It is, after all, one of His character traits.
- What Does 'Sorry' Mean - Discussing True Repentance
The word 'sorry' has become, what I call, an automatic word. It is as popular as 'I love you'. Do people mean it when they say it? Does sorry have any feeling in it anymore?
- Hurt And Hate
Hurt is something that every one has experienced. People experience both emotional hurt and physical hurt. Emotional hurt can cause hate or may be disguised by the action of hate.
© 2014 North Wind