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It’s important to know what the Bible says about forgiveness. The world can cause us to believe a lot of things that aren’t true about forgiveness and even convince us that we don’t need to forgive.

When the Bible talks about forgiveness, it shows us that forgiveness is releasing someone of their debt. It says, “I am going to give you what you don’t deserve. You don’t owe me anything.”

God is the only one who can avenge. He is the judge.

Romans 12:19, “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.”

Jesus paid our debt that was owed. There was no way for us to repay God for our debt. God so loved us that He sent Jesus, and in that, He forgave us of our debt. 

Forgiving others starts with being forgiven. 

Within the Lord’s prayer, Mathew 6:12, Jesus says, “and forgive us our debts,as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

You know that it’s an important piece to your healing process to release the debt. 

By the way, what if I told you your feelings aren’t inherently bad or sinful? You don’t need to fear or suppress them. They can be a guide. If you’re interested, I have a free 3-day study on living by faith while processing emotions. Check it out here!

What Is Forgiveness?

Therefore, let’s get into what the Bible says about forgiveness. It’s important that we understand what forgiveness is and what forgiveness is not. Here are a few things that are important to know about forgiveness.

  • Forgiveness is not based on finding redeeming qualities that make a person worth forgiving. 
  • Forgiveness doesn’t require a person to minimize pain, suffering, or the importance of the experience. 
  • Forgiveness does not mean you enable sin or continue to put yourself in a situation of harm.
  • Forgiveness is not waiting to feel something. 
  • Forgiveness doesn’t wait for an apology.

The more we begin to learn and understand that forgiveness is between you and God, the freer we become. Forgiveness is one of the first steps to not becoming offended or harboring anger.

Forgiveness requires us to put the other person in God’s hands and allow God to work His justice in that person’s life.

Everything in us says we have to bring this to justice ourselves. However, the way we do this usually causes us more harm than good and keeps us trapped instead of free.

Do you trust God with your hurt and pain and that He will avenge you justly? (Not the way you think it should be.)

What Does the Bible Say Forgiveness Doesn’t Mean:

  • Take something wrong and make it right
  • Erase
  • The pain goes away
  • Make anyone reconcile
  • Mean to continue putting yourself in painful situations
  • Come in the form of lip service 

What Does the Bible Say Forgiveness Is:

  • A command of love from the Father
  • A willingness to no longer hold yourself or someone else captive
  • Choosing to process what happened to you and how it happened to you
  • The process and working through anger, pain, and desire for revenge
  • Not reconciliation
  • Knowing your boundaries
  • Heart change
  • Saying I won’t continue to hold this offense against you 

One of the most challenging things for our physical mind to process and understand is the truth regarding what the Bible says about forgiveness. Scripture is clear on forgiveness. I also believe He was clear on it because He knew the separation and hardened hearts it caused.

What Does The Bible Say About Forgiveness?

The Bible teaches that unselfish love is the basis for true forgiveness since “it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5). Forgiving others means letting go of resentment and giving up any claim to be compensated for the hurt or loss we have suffered.

Cognate: 859 áphesis (from 863 /aphíēmi, “send away, forgive” ) – properly, “something sent away”; i.e. remission (“forgiveness”), releasing someone from obligation or debt. See 863 (aphiēmi).

ἄφεσις, ἀφέσεως, ἡ (ἀφίημι);

1. release, as from bondage, imprisonment, etc.: Luke 4:18 (19) (Isaiah 61:1f; Polybius 1, 79, 12, etc.).

2. ἄφεσις ἁμαρτιῶν forgiveness, pardon, of sins (properly, the letting them go, as if they had not been committed

Forgiving others is obedience. However, we also need to forgive others so that we don’t grow bitter. Resentment is a very unhealthy emotion; it hurts us far more than those who have affronted us or anyone else.

The Bible states this in Hebrews 12:15, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it, many become defiled.” 

As we learn about what the Bible says about forgiveness and as we release unforgiveness and all the bitterness and anger that comes with it, we are freed to live and serve with real peace and joy and to grow in spiritual maturity.

Releasing the debt owed to you in God’s hand instead of white-knuckling it in yours. 

Forgiveness has many layers. The context of situations matters, too, such as church discipline, intimate friendships, and relationships.

What the Bible Says About Forgiving Others

We can forgive and release someone of their debt but still have feelings attached to the pain they caused. Releasing the debt doesn’t erase the pain, but it puts the pain in the hands of God to nurture and care for us. 

  1. We want to acknowledge the pain. 
  2. Recount the situation with a trusted friend that will look at all sides and share. Recount the details. 
  3. Allow yourself to view it from different perspectives and possibly the other side. Think about a time when you have had to ask for forgiveness; how did it make you feel? When have you wronged another person, and did they extend forgiveness to you, or withhold it? The Bible directs us to do to others what we would have them do to us (Matthew 7:12), so it can be helpful to put ourselves in their shoes for a moment.
  4. Remember God’s forgiveness for your sin. 
  5. Continue to forgive. Forgiveness is more than just saying a prayer and moving on. It’s a serious decision that you make over and over again. The process will most likely be uncomfortable and painful, but it will always be worth it in the end. The enemy won’t like the fact that you chose to turn to God instead of revenge. 
  6. Pray for the one who hurt you. In Matthew 5:44, Jesus commands us, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Pray for the heart of the one who hurt you. Ask God to reveal himself and for others to come into their path to speak the truth. 

We know that we can depend on God to give us the grace to live out forgiveness because of what the Bible says about forgiveness.

Hatred is the enemy’s work. 

Not only what it does to our souls but also to our bodies. As soon as hatred becomes a part of us, strife gets stirred up around us. James 3:16 reaffirms this powerful truth, “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” Instead of expanding and meditating on the offense, which makes it bigger, love covers it. Love will excuse the offense. By love covering it, strife is prevented. Peace can be recovered and restored quickly. 

“Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” Luke 17:3-4

Here are a few more things I want you to remember when it comes to what the Bible says about forgiveness.

  • Love covers all wounds.
  • My willingness to take responsibility and move in forgiveness changed how I saw those around me. 
  • It takes believing God’s word is true to know how His love covers you. I dare you to believe it today.

“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9

Forgiveness is a process. We have to continually pursue and release one so that we do not try to control the person or the situation. 

When you start forgiveness, you won’t “feel” anything. Our obedience is in the trust of our Father. Not in whether we feel good or not. We can trust Him with our feelings because we are safe with Him. 

Recognize the consequences of unforgiveness versus the healing power of forgiveness. 

Remember, those who forgive choose to forgive. There’s nothing automatic about forgiveness. It’s a choice of obedience out of love and relationship with God

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Why Forgiveness is Important to God

Here are essential and critical verses on forgiveness in the Bible. Remember, Jesus died for every man’s sins.

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:25

Notes from this scripture: Mark 11:25 is a connector/qualification of Mark 11:23,24 and 26. Each of these scriptures starts with connecting phrases. Verse 24 begins with, therefore, which implies what was right before that needs to be applied. Verse 25 begins with and, which conjuncts verse 24 and 25 together. 26 starts with, but which tells us there is an objection to the others if forgiveness doesn’t occur. Forgiveness should come to us in our time of prayer, without delay.

“But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:15

“Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22

Notes from this scripture in the Bible about forgiveness: There should be no limit to our forgiveness. Having compassion for others as Christ had on us. 

“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16

“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.” Proverbs 10:12

Notes from this scripture: The reality is that hatred is the enemy’s work.

There is no easy way to way around this. I care about you too much to water down the reality of hate. Not only what it does to our soul but what it does to our bodies. As soon as hatred becomes apart of us, strife getts stirred up around us. James 3:16 reaffirms this powerful truth, “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” Instead of expanding and meditating on the offense, which makes it bigger, love covers it. Love will excuse the offense. By love covering it strife is prevented. Peace can be recovered and restored quickly. 

“Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” Luke 17:3-4

Here are a few more things I want you to remember when it comes to forgiveness.

Love covers all wounds.

My willingness to take responsibility and move in forgiveness changed how I saw those around me. 

It takes believing God’s word is true to know how His love covers you. I dare you to believe it today.

“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9

One last thing, don’t blame God for what people do.

Is forgiveness difficult for you to comprehend? Join my Untangle Your Thoughts program, where we will explore forgiveness, boundaries, and reconciliation step-by-step. Or get my biblical study on forgiveness!

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