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Understanding Forgiveness: What the Bible Teaches Us

By May 9, 2024May 24th, 2024No Comments

Understanding Forgiveness: What the Bible Teaches Us

What does it mean to forgive? Dictionary.com defines forgive as “to grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.); absolve; to give up all claim on account of; remit (a debt, obligation, etc.); to grant pardon to (a person).”

Forgiveness is easy to understand in concept, but difficult to do in reality. Yet, we all encounter situations where forgiveness is crucial. Whether we’re the ones seeking it or extending it to others, as Christ followers, we are called to live a life of forgiveness. So, what does the Bible specifically say about forgiveness? How do we understand it in our everyday lives, especially when hurts run deep and wounds seem impossible to heal?

Let’s look at some biblical examples.

Everybody Needs It

First, we must recognize that forgiveness is not an abstract concept–no vague generalities here–but a fundamental necessity for every human being. As Romans 3:23 plainly states, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This verse points to each person’s need for forgiveness for their sins. None of us are exempt. No one is good enough. If you have breath in your lungs today, you fall short (as a fellow breathing person, I am in this camp, too).

We must get this: every person, regardless of status or circumstance, is in need of forgiveness for their sins. It’s not a mark of weakness to acknowledge this need, far from it. We’ve all stumbled, made mistakes, and transgressed against God and others. Because of this, we stand guilty before God, deserving of the consequences of our sins.

The Gift of Forgiveness

Yet, in the midst of our mess, there is hope. The core of Christianity lies in the reality that forgiveness is not merely a possibility, but a reality made available through the sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. Romans 6:23 declares this truth beautifully: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Here’s the heart of the matter: forgiveness is not something we can earn through our good deeds or righteous acts or being a nice person. No matter how much litter we pick up or how many shut-ins we visit or charities we give to, it’s not enough, and it never will be.

Forgiveness is a gift freely given by God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Our sins incurred a debt we could never repay, but Christ paid it in full with His own blood. Through His death on the cross, the penalty for our sins was satisfied, and through His resurrection, new life and forgiveness became available to all who believe.

Embracing the Call to Forgive

Understanding the immense gift of forgiveness leads us to a critical realization: we, too, are called to extend this same forgiveness to others. This is where it gets very real because it’s one

thing to receive forgiveness from God, but it’s another thing entirely to extend that forgiveness to those who have wronged us.

At times, this can feel like an insurmountable task, especially when the wounds are deep, and the pain is raw. We may wrestle with feelings of anger, resentment, or a desire for vengeance. But the Bible is clear: we are called to forgive others, just as we have been forgiven.

This doesn’t mean brushing aside the hurt or pretending that the offense didn’t happen. Forgiveness isn’t about minimizing the pain or excusing the wrongdoing. Rather, it’s about releasing the offender from the debt they owe us, just as Christ has released us from the debt of our sins.

Remember, our job is not to avenge; that’s God’s job. Romans 12:19 says, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'”

What Forgiveness Isn’t

Before we go deeper into forgiveness, let’s address some common misconceptions. Forgiveness is not a casual dismissal of wrongdoing with a flippant “it’s okay.” You have said this, and I have said this (or at least something like it). Maybe your phrase of choice is “no problem” or “no worries.” However, when someone wrongs us, it is not okay.

Sin is serious, and the consequences are grave. Hebrews 9:22 reminds us that “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.” Forgiveness comes at a cost.

It’s also important to remember that forgiveness is often a process. We can say it and mean it, yet the tentacles of anger and hurt can try to snag us and wrap around us for a long while. It’s not always a switch we can flip to instantly erase the pain and hurt. Instead, it’s sometimes a journey of healing and restoration that requires time, prayer, and God’s grace.

The Path to Healing

So, how do we navigate forgiveness, especially when the wounds run deep?

The first step is acknowledging our need for it. We must humbly come before God, confessing our own sins, and receiving His forgiveness with gratitude and humility.

Next, we must surrender our hurts and grievances to the Lord, allowing Him to heal our wounds and restore our broken relationships. This may involve extending forgiveness to others, even when it’s difficult or painful. As we release the grip of bitterness and resentment, we make room for God’s love and grace to flow freely in our lives.

Even if we never hear the other person ask for forgiveness, and even if they have no remorse, we are called to forgive. Again, it’s not saying, “It’s okay,” but rather, “I let go of having to get back at them and trust the Lord will handle it all.”

Wrapping Up

Forgiveness is not merely a concept to be understood but a reality to be lived out in our daily lives. It’s a gift from God, made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As recipients of God’s forgiveness, we are called to extend that same forgiveness to others.

May we embrace the call to forgive with humility, grace, and compassion, trusting in God’s power to heal and restore all that has been broken. And may we always remember that true forgiveness is not a sign of weakness but a manifestation of God’s unfailing love and mercy.

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