In the Bible, forgiveness is a Greek word that means, “to let go.” It is the act of granting mercy upon the person who has done something wrong against you.
Forgiveness means you are going to let go of what happened. This does not mean that you agree or condone whatever transpired, but that you are willing to move forward in your life and not carry the negative feelings over what happened.
Forgiveness Bible Verses
Scripture is filled with forgiveness Bible verses and stories about forgiveness. The one thing they all teach us is to forgive one another as we have been forgiven by God.
God forgives on a grand scale. He is the example of what we need to be carrying out in our everyday lives. Therefore, because we have received much grace, “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us,” we are commanded to give that same grace to others (Romans 5:8).
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” ~ Ephesians 4:32
When understanding this Scripture, it is also important to talk about grace. In my eyes, grace is forgiveness without consequences. I was sitting in church recently listening to the pastor preach about grace. He spoke about Preston Sprinkle’s definition: “Grace is unconditional acceptance given to an undeserving person by an unobligated giver. It is one-way love” (see work cited below).
What I learned is that God offers us grace when He forgives us. There are no conditions on God’s love, forgiveness, or grace. As sinners we are going to make mistakes and sin but we know that God will forgive us if we repent.
When I think of all the things God has forgiven me for and His unconditional love, it would not be Christlike to turn around and not do the same. After all, we are meant to show the love of God with our actions and words.
My next example is The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant. This is one of my favorite examples of forgiveness in the Bible.
Here is what the Bible says in Matthew 18:21-35:
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.
“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Matthew 18:21-35 New International Version (NIV)
What a powerful Scripture this is. This story teaches us that we have been given grace and forgiveness by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is our duty to also offer that same forgiveness to others.
The King in this story took mercy on his servant only to find out that the same servant would not offer mercy to somebody who owed him a debt.
God is commanding us to forgive. Our debt has been paid by Jesus Christ on the cross. When Jesus said, “No, not seven times but seventy times seven,” He is talking about an infinite number, meaning that we should always forgive. God does not work on the “three strikes method.” He continues to offer forgiveness to us, even though we are undeserving.
There is a lot to be learned in this short story. It also holds a special place in my heart because this Scripture has helped me in my personal life. When I was new to the church, I heard this story in my pastor’s sermon. He was preaching on the importance of forgiveness. A light went on for me. I understood that it did not matter what transpired that made me angry and feeling like I was justified in my anger; it was my duty to forgive.
Since then I have worked with many people who have been through hard times, where they were a victim of a horrible circumstances. I have clients asking, “Why should I forgive them?” My answer is this: God has forgiven us all our worst sin and continues to love us. It is our duty to show God’s love, and part of that is forgiving each other.
My third example of forgiveness in the Bible is from 1 Corinthians:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-6
This is a pretty well known passage from the Bible. It tells me that to know love is to also know forgiveness.
If you are going to love like God, your love will be patient, kind, honoring others, not selfish, not angry, not keeping score in relationships of wrongdoings or even right doings, but instead rejoicing in the truth and love of God. We are not going to practice this perfectly; we are not perfect but we must practice it as best we can.
Anne Robertson wrote a book called God with Skin On. In this book she states that “we” (meaning Christians) might be “the only Jesus some people ever meet.” As Christians, we need to spread the love of God and show it in our daily lives and in our interactions with others. I want people know God as loving, kind, and forgiving.
Does Forgiving Mean Forgetting?
I have found there is confusion among Christians about forgiving and what that exactly means. I had a client who had been through a troubling time in her life where she was abused by a family member for many years. She tried to understand what forgiveness looked like. She continued to asked herself, “Should I forgive, forget, and allow this family member back into my life? Is that what forgiveness is?”
My answer to that is that your safety is important and by forgiving somebody you are not putting yourself back into a situation where you can be hurt again.
Forgiving her family member was important for her healing and showing the grace that had been granted to her for her sins. But she still needed to take care of herself and practice good boundaries. In the end, she chose to no longer have contact with that person. I supported that boundary and she continues to no longer carry that burden of what happened to her.
It’s okay that she was unable to magically forget what happened to her — after all, she is human. It was important for her to no longer dwell on and carry the sins because it got in the way of her relationship with God.
Today she lives free of that because God has granted her that grace, the same grace that has been offered to her and the same grace she offered her family member.
Some Other Forgiveness Bible Verses to Consider
“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” – Isaiah 1:18
“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” – Matthew 6:9-11
And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. – Luke 23:33-34
“You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you.” – Colossians 3:12-13
Forgiveness and learning how to forgive is not going to come easily. It is something you will need to practice and include in your prayer life and alone time with God.
I mentioned above that forgiveness offers grace to others and shows what God’s love is all about. I heard an interesting quote years ago that really resonated with me and shaped the way I understood forgiveness.
Lewis B. Smedes wrote, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
The person who really suffers is not only the person who has wronged you but instead, you. All the energy put into carrying resentment and anger around, the constant thoughts and reminders that surface and the time exhausted can really wear you down and block your relationship with God.
By letting go of all the anger and negative feelings you are experiencing, you are then offered something so wonderful. It is an amazing feeling to have to no longer carry that burden. This freedom is possible for anybody to experience if you trust in God, put the work in, and continue live as God wants you to live.
If you are struggling with forgiveness and are not sure where to start or how that might look for you, please feel free to reach out to me today. God wants you to forgive and live happily — free of resentment, anger, and fear. Remember, all things are possible with God.
Charis: God’s Scandalous Grace for Us
Preston M.Sprinkle – Tullian Tchividjian – David C Cook – 2014
“Bible and Cross”, Corutesy of Congerdesign, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Praying Hands”, Courtesy of Congerdesign, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Candle”, Courtesy of Myriam-Fotos, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Asking God”, Courtesy of Daniel Reche, Pixabay.com, CC0 License