Forgiveness is typically defined as the process of concluding resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, difference or mistake, and/or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution. The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness as “to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offense or debt.”

What does the Bible tell us?

So shall also my heavenly Father do unto you, if ye forgive not every one his brother from your hearts” (Matt 18:35).

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

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

And whensoever ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any one; that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25).

In whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians. 1:7).

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (2 Cor. 2:10)

But to whom ye forgive anything, I forgive also: for what I also have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, for your sakes” (Matt 6:12).

But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:26).

Some Q & A:

  1.  Why is it so hard for humans to forgive and forget? Pride, self-justification, we need God to help us do it. Depending on the offense, we may not forget, but Scripture does not demand us to forget, or even trust a person.
  2. What are some techniques we use to forgive? Picturing ourselves helping that person, praying for them, meditating upon how much we have been forgiven by God. Think of the nature of the offense and then think about when we have done the same thing against God.
  3. How should we forgive (via phone, email, in person) and does one carry more weight? Depends on situation. When feasible, in-person usually is the best. However, in some cases, telling someone you have forgiven them may not be well received if the offender does not perceive his/her offense. In these cases, I wouldn’t communicate the issue to them. Rather pray for them and enjoy your personal freedom from resentment.
  4. When is the right time to forgive? The sooner the better so resentment does not set in.
  5. What are the signs that we have truly forgiven someone? No inner angst when thinking about the person and we do not talk behind their backs.
  6. What about forgetting offenses? The Bible does not say we must forget sins against us. Forgetting is possible in some cases, but deeper affronts will be remembered. The issue is whether or not the “ax is still grinding” inside. Do we still hold something “over their head” because of their offense? God will let us know if we are hanging on to something wrongly.
  7. Why does God demand we keep forgiving repeat offenses? Because He has forgiven our repeated offenses against Him.

Perks of forgiving = the offender loses power to control our mental state, keeps us humble, the alternative
(resentment/bitterness) hurts us physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Bottom Line = we need to reflect our Father in heaven so others can know Him, and being able to forgive “is divine,” as Alexander Pope once said. Sometimes we struggle with forgiving but I think our Father looks forward to doing it. We need to get so close to Him that we enjoy it as well and become more like Him.

Since God says He won’t forgive us our sins if we do not forgive others, what happens if we hold on to some, or die before forgiving people? The Bible does not make it clear that this would mean hell for us. It does talk about the “Judgment Seat of Christ” that all believers will stand before on that Big Day. This judgment differs from the “Lake of Fire” judgment. So we might assume that some of our reward will not be in eternity because of this issue. If this interpretation is correct, it is impossible for us to quantify this so-called eternal loss. I hasten to add, however, if a person professes to believe in Jesus, but has not forgiven hardly anyone else during life on earth, then I would call into question his/her salvation.

Further Insight – forgiving is a choice, not an emotion, God gives us the ability that we do not have (this is what grace is), so if we choose to forgive, He helps us pull it off.

Aren’t there certain things so terrible that we should not be expected to forgive? I’ve searched the Scriptures daily like those faithful Bereans and have never found this list yet. If women who have been raped can forgive their rapists (and some have), then I should think that anything can be forgiven through the grace of God. He makes all things possible.

Conclusion – Being able to forgive others reflects our relationship with a great God whom we realize has forgiven us a great amount of sin. This was a major part of the prayer that Jesus taught better known as “The Our Father.” The key seems to be whether or not we are willing to forgive someone. If yes, then we can ask God to help us if certain things are difficult to get past. He will give us the ability to forgive if we love Him. Scripture also states that God does not remember our sin. I’m not sure if that is literal or if it means He does not remind us about them nor hold them against us forever. I think it is safe to believe that He views us as though we had never sinned. In and through Christ, we can view others this same way.


NF – Well done!

AS – Great insight, brother.

GR – Dave, thank you for your continued Ministry. I KNOW THIS:
without TRUE forgiveness I would have no wife no family and no marriage,
without TRUE forgiveness I would have no friends,
without TRUE forgiveness I would have no employees,
without TRUE forgiveness my twins would not have been born.

I think the key to all life, relationships, family and true happiness is forgiveness.

PT – Love what you said about forgiveness, especially some of the Q&A responses. Sometimes I seem to struggle with a recurring spirit of unforgiveness and must continue to forgive over and over. That is, I have truly forgiven someone of an offense in the past, but the offense will come to mind and it seems I have to remind myself I will not hold on to this offense any longer. Any comments?

Dave to PT – Thanks for your comments and transparency. We can all learn and grow more in Christ when brothers and sisters are honest about their struggles. About recurring “cringes,” I usually think about all the sins God has forgiven me, especially those that I’ve done repeatedly. This helps me put my mind in a perspective that I can more easily forgive others.

FD – Thanks for the insights on forgiveness. This topic has been a problem for me and I am meditating on
all you’ve said and it is really helping.