If we want to be at peace with God and with others, then we must learn to forgive others. An unforgiving attitude can lead to a person’s ruin.
Let’s take a look at what the Bible has to say about it.
Luke 23:34 – Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
As Jesus was being nailed to the cross, these were His words. He was literally petitioning for their forgiveness as they were driving the nails through his own wrists! He could forgive even His enemies as they were torturing Him.
Matthew 18: 21-22 – 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?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
In this conversation, Jesus was not giving a literal maximum capacity for how many times one should be forgiven of the same offense. He is saying that we ought to forgive so many times that it seems absurd, or that we would lose count if we tried to keep track.
Luke 6:37 – Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
The order of these words may at first seem contrary to the Gospel Truth that we are saved by faith, and not by works. (Ephesians 2:8). This sentence is structured in a way that is most well translated from the original manuscripts, so in our language we may get confused if we do not take factors into consideration.
What is being said here is that our response to the forgiveness of God should be that we offer forgiveness to others. Since we are exempt from the judgement of non-believers, we should refrain from passing judgement on to others. Since we have been pardoned from condemnation, we too should offer the same pardons to those who have offended us.
Mark 11:25 – And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
In turn, if we are refusing forgiveness when we have been offered so much, it may be an indicator of poor spiritual health. The “work” of forgiveness is not going to save us, or earn us forgiveness. However, it is a very immature response to take something like God’s forgiveness, which was offered freely while we did not deserve it, and came at such a high cost for Him, just to turn around and restrict how we will forgive others of less meaningful offenses.
Our sins offend God dearly. It is to Him like we are a cheating spouse. The Bible often refers to rebellious sinners as prostitutes and adulterous women in the eyes of God, telling us that we hurt His heart when we sin against Him. In comparison, the things that have offended us are typically much easier to forgive than adultery.
If we lack spiritual maturity in this area, I have good news! If we turn to God for his power in prayer, we can be delivered from this place.
These points are well summarized in the following verses.
Ephesians 4:32 – Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.
Colossians 3:13 – Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
When all is said and done