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Biblical forgiveness, should we always forgive

Updated on March 14, 2015

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One of the most important things you can do, as a Christian in your walk to follow Jesus Christ is to practice forgiveness for everyone who has harmed you. Forgiveness is not easy; it’s one of the most difficult things you must do because it’s against human nature.

It’s normal to want to see someone who has harmed you get what they deserve. What you must do is show mercy. Mercy is choosing not to give someone what he or she deserves. James 2:13 says: There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you. God is just and he will deal out justice if it's wanted when the time comes.

What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is a decision to release a person from the obligation they owe you for harm they have caused you. Forgiveness from God is the forgiving of our sins by giving his son Jesus Christ to die on the cross to release the obligation and pay the price for your sins; in turn you must forgive those who sin against you. Matthew 18: 21-22 says, Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” 22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! This is for someone who has remorse and asks for forgiveness.

What forgiveness is not? Forgiveness is not allowing the person you have forgiven to continue to harm you. Many times the person doesn’t care that they caused your harm, or they want to cause you more harm, or sometimes don’t even know that they have harmed you. You are to forgive in your mind and turn if over to God and move on, but you don’t have to keep being around the person that is causing you harm.

Why we have such a hard time with forgiveness. You may have many reasons why you feel you can’t forgive someone.

  • It’s too big. There is nothing too big to forgive.
  • Time will heal it. Not true, time will allow it to fester and get worse.
  • I will forgive when they say they are sorry. Most of the time it’s not going to happen.
  • I can’t forgive if I can’t forget. This is backwards; you need to forgive to forget.
  • If I forgive them they will just do it again. That is very possible, and then you forgive them again.

These reasons are wrong; they are reasons that will cause you pain, they cause no pain to the person who has done harm to you. Holding on to your hate of resentment will eat at you and affect your life, not the person who harmed you.

Why it hurts you not to forgive. Part of following Christ is to forgive to get forgiveness for out sins. Matthew 6:14,15. 14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Unforgiveness punishes everyone in its path and the consequences of unforgiveness are long lasting. Unforgiveness is a major cause of bitterness, which is a constant negative running through your mind. It also causes anger, which eats away at you and causes you more harm.

Colossians 3:13 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. These verses are talking about when people ask for forgiveness and are sorry, even if they do it over and over, just as God will keep forgiving us when we sin over and over.

How do you forgive?  Forgiveness is not an instant or easy thing; it is a process of healing by grieving and then letting go and moving on.  Forgiveness is something you can’t do on our own; you need God’s help to make forgiveness complete.   During the process of forgiveness you:

·        Don’t bring it up to the person.

·        Don’t bring it up to others.

·        Don’t bring it up to yourself.

·        Don’t tell yourself you have a right to feel angry.  Ephesians 4:31 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

If you feel anger or bitterness or rage, ask God’s forgiveness and for help to complete the process so you can let it go.  Holding on to the negative emotions will not allow you have peace and let it go.

Should we always forgive

After reading some more and talking to my father who is a retired minster, I have changed my mind about always forgiving. It is a good thing to do from a psychological point of view, we need to forgive everyone in our mind and to get over the feelings that are eating at you but we don't always need to forgive in a biblical sense. God only forgives if the person is repentant of their sins, should we be held to a higher standard than what God forgives? Read this to see what changed my mind.


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    • profile image

      Chris Brauns 

      6 years ago

      Given that Christians are called to forgive as God forgives, I believe that forgiveness is conditional. That is, we ought not always forgive.

      We should always offer forgiveness - - we should wrap the package. But forgiveness doesn't take place in its fullest sense unless there is repentance. This is the position of many Christian thinkers (see ) and the one I took in Unpacking Forgiveness.

    • Bedbugabscond profile image

      Melody Collins 

      6 years ago from United States

      For me forgivness is a art of my nature. That has made it very difficult to draw the line. I am learning that you are right. Forgiving someone doesn't mean you have to keep letting that person hurt you. Learning to forgive while walking away at the same time is such an important lesson for me.

    • teacherjoe52 profile image


      7 years ago

      I agree

      Yes we should forgive.

      We also must lovingly confront the offender, many times with a Christian councillor.

      If they refuse to reconcile (admit what they did,admit it was wrong, apologize and finally ask for forgiveness) we should distence ourselves from them


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