If you had to pinpoint the hardest command of God to follow, what would it be? For me, forgiveness is at the top of the list. Yet, learning how to genuinely forgive has brought the most freedom to my life and faith walk. I want to share that process with you, but to begin we must understand something; what is forgiveness and why is it important?That is such a good question I have to repeat it. What is forgiveness and why is it important for every person? Forgiveness is a choice you make. Really it is several choices. Click To Tweet
We All Struggle With This Question: What is Forgiveness?
When I was younger there was a popular song with this lyric; “Forgive, sounds good. Forgive, I just don’t think I could.” It is not a stand-alone song by any means. Composers, playwrights, and authors come back to the topic of forgiveness over and over because it is one we can all relate to.
Why is forgiveness so relatable? We all, every single human on planet earth, have been hurt. When pain comes in, the last thing on our minds is forgiveness. Part of the reason for this is that we don’t understand it.
What is forgiveness and why is it important?
It’s funny, I know you may read this and chalk it all up to Christianity, but the what and why of forgiveness is really for everyone. Every single person alive needs to learn to forgive. Now, to be fair, I am a Christian (rather, a disciple of Christ) and I will share from that perspective… but that is only because Jesus loves you and longs for you to live in freedom and abundance of life.
At the time of this writing, statistics show an almost 50% divorce rate among churched and unchurched couples. Let that sink in… 50 out of every 100 couples who get married will divorce. Narrow it down further and you see that out of every 2 couples, one will divorce. That is a pain like little else.
So you can imagine that anytime I meet a couple who has been married for several decades I can’t help but ask how they’ve made it. The most common answer I hear is, “We forgive each other.” I ask because I want this marriage to last, but every time I hear the happy could talk about forgiveness I sigh.
Related Post: 7 Steps to Thrive Through Forgiveness in Marriage
The Struggle to Forgive
Think about it, there is so much to forgive in life. Pain and hurt come in unexpectedly over time and it just sort of builds up in relationships. Personally, My deepest relationship is my marriage to Bud. Over the span of our time together there have been many tough things to forgive.
- Little things he has done in a moment of thoughtlessness.
- Words that were spoken in anger.
- Actions he did knowingly.
- Actions that were completely unintentional.
Shoot, even those sweet little quirks that once drew me to him can hurt at times. Can you relate?
The thing is though, that each time something hurts me, anger and resentment build up. They sort of just pup up out of nowhere and they are an easy place to camp out in the pain of marriage. And the more I camp out there, the closer I get to losing everything because the longer I stay the harder it is to forgive.
What is Forgiveness?
So we can all agree that forgiveness is hard. When I am hurt by someone I want revenge, justice, retaliation… I want to go back and avoid the situation, try to find peace and comfort somehow. I don’t want to just let the hurt go and pretend it never happened, which is what I thought forgiveness mean. Not so.
What is the forgiveness definition?
- The cultural definition of forgiveness is – to stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.
That definition stinks. It is everything I have fought to avoid my whole life! How can you just stop feeling angry and hurt when someone has hurt you?
What Forgiveness is NOT
But before we get too far into what forgiveness is and how to live it out I think we should touch a bit on what forgiveness is NOT.
- Forgiveness is NOT About the person you are forgiving.
- Forgiveness is 100% between you and God. This is not about fixing the broken trust or relationship (that will come later). No, this is about doing what God said because He said to do it. Forgiveness is for your own soul, your own growth. It is about being right with God regardless of the mistakes of those around you. It is hard, but it is for you… not them.
- Forgiveness is NOT dependent on their acknowledging their part or apologizing!
- Because forgiveness is about you and God, you can forgive well before they ever realize their mistake or apologize. We will talk at great length about this, but for now, just start to think about it. God said forgive everyone, everything because He forgives you everything every time. He forgave you at the cross… so forgiveness is not about when we say sorry, it is about being right before God.
- Forgiveness is NOT the same thing as reconciling the relationship.
- Some things completely break relationships. Some things are too big to repair the broken trust and continue together. That is not to say God can’t come in and move in powerful ways… I have seen Him do that. The point is, we forgive in order to stay right with God, not to fix the relationship. Reconciliation does require forgiveness, but it also requires much more. Forgiving alone does not fix things… it is just the first step. And forgiving does not mean you will keep walking together. We will talk about that later on as well.
What is Forgiveness in the Bible?
“bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so must you do also.” (Colossians 3:13 NASB)
Forgiveness in the Bible is something deeper, though for years I didn’t have any idea. Well-meaning Christians had taught me the cultural view of it so often I thought it was all there was. When trying to answer, “What is forgiveness in Christianity?” be sure you look to the Bible rather than people.
Biblical forgiveness is twofold.
- Forgiveness from God for our sins.
- Forgiveness to others because God forgave everything.
What is Forgiveness of Sins?
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NASB)
Understanding the power of forgiveness starts with understanding that God forgives you for every single sin you have ever committed. He stops being angry and releases the debt you owe Him as a result of sin which is what forgiveness means!
Maybe you think of sin as mistakes rather than heinous crimes against a holy righteous God, but sin is just that.
Sin Can Not Go Unpunished
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NASB)
Enter the love of God. He loves you so much that He made a way to be with you for all eternity. He sent His Only Son to:
- Live a sinless life
- Die the death you deserved for sinning
- Taking the consequence needed to make you right before God.
Forgiveness of sin was purchased with the spotless blood of Jesus Christ poured out in love on calvary.
Forgiveness Is A Free Gift
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gracious gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 NASB)
The beauty of Christ’s gift of salvation is that it is free. He paid the price and we only have to receive His love. He only asks for your heart, surrendered to Him as Lord of your life.
“that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9 NASB)
God loves you. He wants to spend eternity with you in paradise. Give your life to Him today. He will forgive everything and come alongside you in this journey to help you grow and thrive!
Related Post: 10 Compelling Reasons To Share the Gospel Today
The effect of forgiveness from God is freedom in us, His children who receive His free forgiveness, to forgive others. It is an expectation for all Christians that we will forgive others who wrong us. We will see that in just a moment, but first I want to give you a why.
Why can we forgive and how is that part of what forgiveness means as a Christian?
Vengeance and Judgement
God is called the Ancient of Days, the Great Judge of all man. He sees all and knows all and the wrong done to you did not escape His notice.
“Vengence is mine, I will repay says the Lord…” (Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:17-19 NKJV)
The biggest reason it is challenging to forgive (give up anger about a wrong done) is that it feels as though the offender gets away with hurting us. Right? This is the piece we feel is unjust and it is important for our point. (Just know that while we skim the issue now, we will cover it more in-depth later.)
As a Christian you can forgive, you can release your offender because we are assured God will handle the justice part. There will come a day when every single person will give an account of their life. That wrong done to you will come up and there will be a price to be paid.
What is the True Meaning of Forgiveness
Forgiveness is a choice you make to release your offender into the hands of God. The power of forgiveness is that you are then free to move on with life while they are left face to face with God. God is a much scarier enemy than I will ever be… How about you?
Freedom. The power of forgiveness is freedom for you. When you are not stuck as your offender’s jailkeeper or probation officer you can do all the other things in life.
What is Forgiveness Christian Style?
Just to keep it straight, there is a difference between cultural forgiveness and Biblical forgiveness. One releases the offender in your mind to… nothing really. Cultural forgiveness feels suppressive and breeds bitterness and resentment! Even when you consider what are the 3 types of forgiveness or the 3 ways to forgive it is still without any real justice!
Biblical forgiveness however accepts God’s love, forgiveness, and Lordship, then freely gives what is freely given. We can forgive because He forgave us and because He will judge in the end.
Related Post: 40 Simple Reasons To Trust in God Today and Always
What Does The Bible Say About Forgiveness
Life can hurt, but when we dwell on the hurt, delaying or completely refusing forgiveness, we invite deeper hurt. God loves us too much to want us to suffer needlessly!
I believe that is why Jesus tells us to forgive (one reason anyway), to avoid pain. He is such a loving God. He does not arbitrarily lay down rules to make our lives harder. Instead, the Lord lovingly warns us of impending danger, trying to keep us from unnecessary hurt.
Bible Verses About Forgiveness
So what does the Bible say about forgiveness? So much that we will have to cover it slowly. First, we see something Jesus said about what forgiveness is.
“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:14-15 NASB)
Did you notice that there is a condition given for our forgiveness from God? Read the last line of this passage out loud, please.
“…but if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:14-15 NASB)
Let it sink down into your heart.
These are the words of Jesus so we know there is no wiggle room.
Jesus Said To Forgive, But…
Jesus said we must forgive. Shouldn’t that be the end of the point? It should, but regardless of who said it, we still struggle with forgiveness. Be honest, didn’t you already know Jesus said forgive???? And you still struggle with this just like I do, right?
And in the midst of struggling to forgive, I have valid sounding excuses.
- “I forgave him the first time, but he does the same stupid hurtful thing over and over again. How many times do I have to forgive him?”
Did you know the Bible answers that question too, the question we all ask?
How Often Do We Have To Forgive?
“Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven time a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ’I repent’, forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4 NASB)
First, we see Jesus telling us to forgive 7 times. Great. Clear answer right? But He goes so much deeper than that! Jesus also tells us how to handle the hurtful situation.
Rebuke the offensive person it says… When I began studying forgiveness, this hit me hard. You see, I had been carrying around hurt for years and refusing to forgive. I certainly didn’t rebuke anyone who had hurt me. I just let them keep doing the things… Can any other nonconfrontational peacemakers out there relate?
People have hurt me, you too if you are reading this. There is a part of me that can really get excited about the idea of rebuking them if that’s really what God said to do. So let’s unpack that word and fully understand what Jesus meant.
The Greek word epitimao (rebuke) means to show honor by bringing a charge against your brother privately.
We are to honor our offenders when we tell them they hurt us. How on earth do you get that right?
Honestly, there are many reasons I don’t confront people who hurt me.
- I wonder if I deserved it.
- Their side sounds fair sometimes.
- I am afraid things will just get worse.
- My emotions feel too volatile to really make sense when confronting.
But when we think about things from Jesus’ example we can see it more clearly. Jesus lived life fully in God’s will, with love for others oozing out of His every Word and action. He loved people too much to not make clear when they had crossed a line.
Honor loves people enough to help them grow even when what just happened hurts.
Forgive 7 Times A Day?
Okay, so back to the how often question.
The number 7 is a symbolic number in the Bible. It is the number of perfection and completion in several places. In Matthew’s account of this same conversation, He says to forgive 7 x 70 times a day. Basically, that means forgive every time because honestly, who does the same thing 490 times a day?
That’s a tough thing to accomplish. When tempers flare or priorities clash in marriage, it is easy to offend each other. It is easy to get angry and hurt each other back.
Anger Without Sin
Thank goodness Paul addresses anger with the church at Ephesus.
“Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” (Ephesians 4:26-27 NASB)
This Scripture on forgiveness is not saying you won’t get angry. Whew, we are only human.
It is saying don’t do anything sinful in your anger. This Bible verse on forgiveness also gives your anger a time frame. Deal with it on the same day.
Why deal with anger on the same day? When we do not deal with the anger right away, it takes root deeply in our hearts and becomes bitterness. This is a huge part of why forgiveness is important! Huge!!!!!!
Be Careful With Your Words
As we continue reading Ephesians we see clear instructions that we should not use our words to win a fight in anger. It is so tempting to do just that right? I know just what to say to win a fight with him and shut him down… That however is neither loving nor honoring.
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” (Ephesians 4:29-31 NASB)
The consequence of using our words in a way opposite to this is drastic.
Grieve The Holy Spirit
God’s Word says we grieve the Holy Spirit when we use our words in anger. I don’t know about you, but no argument or selfish agenda on my part is worth offending God. Period!
Offending God is a sin no matter which way I spin it. And I can spin it. Can’t you? I can justify my angry words and feel God is being unfair… but He is God… and that is all that really matters in the end.
“If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear;” (Psalm 66:18 NASB)
I never want to be in a place where God will not hear or answer my prayers. He is my help, my strength, my hiding place. Can you relate? So learning how to harness my tongue when I am hurt is critical for my faith walk.
Why is Forgiveness Important?
Forgiveness is a critical choice in the life of every person alive, but more so for Christians. The power of forgiveness is the freedom it brings in your life to move forward rather than getting and remaining stuck. But the effects of forgiveness reach deep into your life and the lives of everyone you encounter.
Think about it like a pro-con list!
Related Post: 38 Encouraging Bible Verses About Love and Marriage
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Forgiveness
Just as with every other choice you make there will be advantages and disadvantages of forgiveness. These are just a few to get you thinking:
|Growth spiritually||Seeming weak or passive|
|Joy||Others will not understand|
|Clean Hands||Practice is hard|
|Open Communication With God||Some may get away with things|
|Peace with God||It feels awkward at first|
|Freedom from Keeping Score||Boundaries may have to be set|
|Peace of Mind|
Effects of Forgiveness
When considering the pros and cons we also have to consider the results or effects of forgiveness or the effects of refusing forgiveness.
Effects of Refusing Forgiveness:
- Getting stuck in your faith walk
- Disconnected from God
I have walked this path and can personally attest to the pain that comes no matter how you try to shield yourself from more pain. It’s a crazy cycle.
Effects of Forgiveness:
- Know God more
- Grow in faith
- Answers to prayer
I have been walking this path for some years now and it is by far the best life!
Forgiveness is a Hard Habit to Cultivate
Let me say that again in case you read anything above and felt like I have this all together or think you should have it figured out today. Forgiveness is hard!
Forgiveness is a choice we make. We have to make the choice every day. What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is a choice you make daily, a habit we must cultivate, to release others to God.
This habit will take daily practice, intentional thinking, and community support.
Forgiveness in Marriage
Most of the time it is easy to forget I am talking about marriage. That is because I believe with my whole heart that the only way to thrive in marriage is to be growing in faith. Learning to forgive things in marriage begins with learning to forgive. Period.
You can’t forgive your spouse if you don’t understand what forgiveness is and why it is important. In the same way, your marriage will not thrive in the abundance God has for you if you refuse to learn to forgive. You can take that to the bank. The surest way to ruin your marriage is to name yourself the warden and refuse to ever forgive.
Related Post: Refusing to Forgive in Marriage Kills Joy
What is Forgiveness and Why is it Important for Every Person?
That is such a good question I have to repeat it. What is forgiveness and why is it important for every person?
Forgiveness is a choice you make. Really it is several choices.
- You must choose to accept God’s forgiveness.
- Then you must choose to forgive others.
- Finally, you choose to allow God to handle judgment and justice.
The benefits of practicing these choices can not be overstated. Hope, joy, freedom, and peace come when we learn to forgive.
Now, to be clear, forgiveness doesn’t fix everything. Nope, but it does put us in the right heart posture to allow God to move in miraculous ways. Forgiveness makes us disciples living free of bitterness and resentment with expectant hearts open to God’s plan!
But we will go deeper soon and learn the practical ways to forgive God’s way!
in HIS love,
If you liked this, you will love these articles:
- My Top Reasons Not To Forgive in Marriage
- A FREE Forgiveness Challenge Will Bring Freedom
- 14 Characteristics of a Godly Wife That Will Save Your Marriage