Forgiveness According to Scripture
We hear a lot about forgiving in the scriptures but do we really understand True Forgiveness? What it actually includes, and what else is part of the package. Let's look at scripture and see what it really is and what we must do to please God in this..
First The Warning
In scripture there are many warnings, some warn about things we should Not do and other things we Must do. Warnings also usually contain the penalty or reward for doing or not doing these things. The following scripture most Christ followers are familiar with but do you understand it FULLY? Let's read it and break it down so we fully understand it so we can fully properly follow it.
Matt 6:14-15 "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Did you ever stop to think abut the seriousness of this scripture? If you Do NOT forgive others for their trespasses against you then GOD will not/can not forgive You, for your trespasses against Him.
His word says so. BUT note it also means we also WILL BE forgiven if we truly forgive others. God's favor and protection is reserved for those that follow Him and learn and follow HIS ways. Contrary to what some teach, there are conditions that we must meet to be guaranteed God's hand of protection and favor. Those are the ones He can trust to do things for Him, IN HIS WAY. These are the brethren that see healing, deliverance, do not die if poisoned by their enemies or bit by a poisonous critter and others of those things we mistakenly label as miracles on a daily basis. They are God's people, tried and tested and have passed the tests. You must pass the tests to obtain the fullness of the Kingdom of God.
The Testing and Its Purpose
To become a full citizen of the Kingdom of God you must be changed from the carnal (natural) to the spiritual realm in all your ways. See Galations chapter 5
Gal 5:24-26 And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
How do we do this? You learn and adopt God's ways and desires instead of your own. When you profess to be a Christ follower then you become responsible to act like Christ and will see the testing begin in your life Some (say that It is up to God to change you when He is ready but scripture says otherwise (don't believe me check the above scripture) “those who ARE Christ's HAVE CRUCIFIED their flesh. Note that THEY did it not God, yes you may have had His help BUT YOU have to do it if you claim to be a Christ follower and wish to find favor with Him.
Now the purpose of the testing. Some (carnal folks) think it is wrong for God to test us, but how can we and He be sure if we will do what He tells us to (in His way) without testing to see? To drive a car on the highway you need to “pass a test” so why should we not be tested before entrusting the keys to the kingdom to us. Peter tells us to rejoice in the trials that our precious faith may be Proven. See the purpose isn't to keep us away but to Prove we can be trusted with and given more of the things of God. And to grow our patience which will be needed as God trusts us with more and more responsibilities of the kingdom. AND that patience is necessary for us to become “Perfect ad Complete, lacking NOTHING.”
1 Peter 1:6-8 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love.
James 1:2-5 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
Do you see how important it is to have full and correct understanding of scripture.
Now back to forgiving others. Yes we get tired of forgiving others that seem to take advantage, but, we still have to do it His way if we are going to please Him. He says we must forgive seventy times seven. Does this mean 490 times then? Not really is actually means as many times as necessary, without number. Note this does not mean for the same thing every time. Remember TRUE repentance includes that we stop doing whatever the offense is. By forgiving we set them free to hear God about the next change they might need and we see the growth in that person and help them to learn to walk closer to our Lord. So forgiving others not only assures our own forgiveness but helps the other person as well. In the following scripture we see more of God's way of doing things . In vs 21-34 we see how to handle situations and in vs 35 we see the result of not doing it God's way.
Matt 18:21-35 Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" 22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, 'Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
28 "But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, 'Pay me what you owe!' 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?' 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
35 "So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses."
When forgiving someone the reply is “I forgive you.” “Oh that's ok”, “I know you didn't mean it” or anything else IS NOT a proper answer. If you cannot forgive then the answer would be “No I am not able to forgive you at this time. You must be truthful.
About 40 yrs ago I was teaching a class on forgiveness, as I was preparing my notes God spoke to me and said “go to the blackboard” so I got up and went to the blackboard. Then he said “take a piece of chalk and write on the blackboard”, I asked what and He said “anything”. So I wrote something.
Then He said “ now take the eraser and erase it”, so I did. Then He said”look at it, can you still vaguely see it?” I said yes and He said “that's how you forgive, its gone but still there” The he said “ go get a wet rag ad erase it” and I did. Then He said “ can you see it now?” and I said no and He said”that is how I forgive, its no longer seen, its as if it never happened. That example has been used and treasured by me for over 40 years because it shows what true forgiveness really is.
What about the brother that has sinned against me but not asked for forgiveness?
Matt 18:15-17 "Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.' 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.
This scripture is self explanatory. I would add that you should bring with you a brother that is impartial and will be bluntly honest to both parties when applying scripture to the situation.
If he refuses to repent then you must Tell it to the church you must warn all Christians in contact with him/her about him/her. Remember there is only one real church.
WHY? A true story explains. Many years ago I was associated with a group with many teenage girls, 3 were mine. When we started attending their meetings there was a young man who we assumed was an acceptable young Man as no one warned us. The teenager started hanging out with my girls and several of their friends. Then one day he made the mistake of trying to convince my middle daughter to have sex.. She immediately came and told me and I went to the elders and asked why I was not warned (several of the other girls confided to my daughter that they had the same experience with him). Their answer was “we talked to him several times”. I demanded that they immediately expose him “to the church” and they were not willing to do that because his parents would be hurt. I let them know that I would do it the after I talk to him and his parents. I showed them the scripture and they told me not to do it. I told them I am responsible for my girls and to God to follow scripture, not you. I also told them to prepare for some teenage pregnancies in their group. I talked to the boy and his parents, they knew about it and had nothing to say and he was not repentant. I told them and him that he better stay away from my girls and that I would be exposing him. So I went to the parents of each of the newer families and warned them. They thanked me. Many of the “older” families were angry at ME because their elders did not back me. I left there shortly after the first teenage pregnancy was made public. There were at least3 I later heard about. God's word means what it says.
Asking Forgiveness from Others
Now that we understand the importance of why and how to give forgiveness we will look at asking others to forgive us.
You must understand , these principles are not fully taught in most “churches”, so many people just do not know what to do when you ask their forgiveness.
You should say something like this. I was wrong to do/say “whatever” . I have repented and now need to ask your forgiveness. The majority will say things like, “oh its ok” or “ I never gave it a thought” or something similar. Your answer to that should be “ God requires me to make things right when I do wrong, that was wrong, I have repented and now need you to forgive me. “OK” No it is not ok , if you forgive me please say I forgive you.
If they say the can/will not forgive you then now you have an offense against them and must apply Mathew 18:15-18 as above.
True forgiveness includes true repentance. Be sure to repent before asking forgiveness.
Also note that it is possible you misunderstood or were wrong. If in the process of solving the problem you find you were at fault you must quickly repent and ask forgiveness.