Each of us have given forgiveness. I remember having to grapple with my grandfather’s suicide as a senior in high school. In time, I forgave him for what I viewed as the ultimate selfish act and a cruel blow to my grandmother. I chose then and choose now to forgive him. Forgiveness can be given face-to-face or after someone has died. It is a matter of the heart and is not dependent on the person asking for forgiveness, but only on our choosing to give forgiveness. We forgive because God forgave us. We forgive because God tells us to forgive. Forgiveness is an act of the will. It is a choice, not an emotion.
And each of us have received forgiveness and are thankful for other people’s kindness, mercy and graciousness towards us. And unfortunately, we have also experienced unforgiveness when people refuse to forgive us, instead they choose to hold on to an offense, and they choose resentment and bitterness instead of reconciliation and healing.
Even so, we can choose to forgive them for their unforgiveness. And we can refuse to become bitter over their offense, resentment and bitterness towards us. We can actively refuse to become a slave to unforgiveness. We can choose to receive the gift of life and forgiveness that Christ purchased for us on the Cross and we can choose to freely give forgiveness to others. It is a gift we receive and a free gift that we give. Choose Life. Choose to Forgive.
What is Forgiveness?
Forgiveness is “the act of forgiving or pardoning an offender, by which he is considered and treated as not guilty.” [Webster]
To give and receive forgiveness is a powerful expression of God’s love. God loves us and He has forgiven us. We receive and give the gift of forgiveness to others as an expression of the love we have received from Him. Our gift is not dependent on others asking or receiving, but only on our heart freely giving it. Sometimes we forgive one time, but most of the time we forgive multiple times. Forgiving brings cleansing, healing and release because we refuse to hold onto offense. We refuse to play God. We forgive and give the person and the situation to God knowing that He can handle everything we have experienced and everything we feel. It is so freeing to let God be God.
“Remember that to forgive does not mean to condone something. It does not mean you think the behavior was acceptable. It is saying you don’t want it to hurt you anymore.” ~Caroline Buchanan
Types of Forgiveness
- Detached forgiveness—there is a reduction in negative feelings toward the offender, but no restoration of the relationship.
- Limited forgiveness—there is a reduction in negative feelings toward the offender, and partial restoration of and decreased emotional investment and intensity in the relationship.
- Full forgiveness—there is a total cessation of negative feelings toward the offender, and the relationship experiences full restoration and growth in the relationship. ~Michele Killough Nelson
“The ultimate proof of total forgiveness takes place when we sincerely petition the Father to let those who have hurt us off the hook—even if they have hurt not only us, but also those close to us.” ~R.T. Kendall
“Nine out of ten people I have had to forgive sincerely do not feel they have done anything wrong. It is up to me to forgive them from my heart – and then keep quiet about it.” ~R.T. Kendall
“Unforgiveness is usually based on us walking in self-righteousness. And unforgiveness usually means that we do not put a high enough value on our relationship with God. Unforgiveness grieves the Holy Spirit, and we end up setting ourselves up as Judge, Jury and Executioner. This leads to God opposing us and us losing our authentic fellowship with the Father.” ~R.T. Kendall
“Unforgiveness (not being able to forgive) can actually make us ill, or contribute to [physical] maladies. According to CBN, ‘Of all cancer patients, 61% have forgiveness issues and of those more than half are severe. Cancer surgeon Dr. Steven Standiford says unforgiveness makes people sick and keeps them sick.” ~Caroline Buchanan
Unforgiveness and resentment are like us swallowing poison and expecting the other person to die. Unforgiveness is self-punishing and self-destructive, but we are usually blinded by our anger and resentment and therefore don’t see the slow death creeping into our spirit, soul and body.
Unforgiveness holds the offended one in a self-inflicted prison. We don’t have to stay in bondage. We don’t have to be weighed down with anger, revenge and bitterness. We can choose to forgive and leave justice in the hands of the Lord. There is a life-giving pathway we can choose to travel – forgiveness is a choice which leads to freedom for us. Unforgiveness is a choice that leads to our being bound, and potentially leads to our physical, emotional and spiritual destruction.
Biblical Thoughts on Forgiveness
“As Christ forgave you. Because Christ as the model of forgiveness has forgiven all our sins totally, believers must be willing to forgive others.” [MacArthur 1743]
“Forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another. There are few disputes among the people of God which could not be solved quickly if these inunctions were heeded. Forgiveness should be exercised toward others when they have offended. We often hear the complaint: ‘But he was the one who offended me…’
“That is exactly the type of situation in which we are called upon to forgive. If the other person had not offended us, there would have been no need for forgiveness. If we had been the one who had committed the offense, then we should have gone and asked for pardon. “Forbearance suggests our not taking offense; forgiveness – not holding it.”
“There could scarcely be any greater incentive to forgiveness than is found in this verse: Even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. How did Christ forgive us? He forgave us without a cause. So should we. He forgave us freely. So should we. He forgave and He forgot. So should we. Both as to manner and extent, we should follow our blessed Lord in this wonderful attitude.” [MacDonald 2059-60]
“Put on forgiveness. This is the logical result of all that Paul has written so far in this section. It is not enough that the Christian must endure grief and provocation, and refuse to retaliate; he must also forgive the troublemaker. If he does not, then feelings of malice will develop in the heart; and these can lead to greater sins. It is Christlike to forgive, and forgiveness opens the heart to the fullness of the love of God. The very instant we have a complaint against another person, we should forgive him in our hearts. (Family forgiveness is another matter. We should go to the offender and seek to help him in love.) [Wiersbe 687]
“Forgiveness is releasing the hurts of our hearts so that God might strengthen us and restore us to wholeness.” [Blackaby 58]
Forgiveness Scriptures from God to Us
How Blessed is he whose wrongdoing is forgiven, whose sin is covered! (Psalm 32:1)
As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our wrongdoings from us. (Psalm 103:12)
If You, Lord, were to keep account of guilty deeds, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, so that You may be revered. (Psalm 130:3-4)
I, I alone, am the one who wipes out your wrongdoings for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins. (Isaiah 43:25)
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)
Forgiveness Scriptures from Us to Others
Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)
For if you forgive other people for their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive your offenses. (Matthew 6:14-15)
Then Peter came up and said to Him, “Lord, how many times shall my brother sin against me and I still forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22)
And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you for your offenses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your offenses.” (Mark 11:25-26)
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; 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. In addition to all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. (Colossians 3:12-14)
To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. ~Lewis B. Smedes
There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love. ~Bryant H. McGill
Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it. ~Mark Twain
Forgiveness is a funny thing. It warms the heart and cools the sting. ~William Arthur Ward
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. ~Gandhi
Forgiveness is above all a personal choice, a decision of the heart to go against natural instinct to pay back evil for evil. ~Pope John Paul II
It’s not an easy journey, to get to a place where you forgive people. But it is such a powerful place, because it frees you. ~Tyler Perry
As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison. ~Nelson Mandela
Forgiveness is a strange thing. It can sometimes be easier to forgive our enemies than our friends. It can be hardest of all to forgive people we love. ~Mr. Rogers
Forgiveness is the needle that knows how to mend. ~Jewel
If one by one we counted people out for the least sin, it wouldn’t take us long to get so we had no one left to live with. For to be social is to be forgiving. ~Robert Frost
Key Principle – We are encouraged to live our life in Christ and to ‘put on’ or to ‘clothe ourselves’ with: a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness and love.
Key Takeaway – Forgiveness is an act of the will. It is a choice, not an emotion. Choose to receive the gift of life and forgiveness that Christ purchased for us on the Cross. Choose Life. Choose to Forgive.
Forgiveness Book Reviews
Forgiven – The Amish School Shooting, a Mother’s Love, and a Story of Remarkable Grace. By Terri Roberts and Jeanette Windle. Narrated by Pamela Klein. Audible, October 6, 2015. (7 hours 4 minutes) 5 stars – This story is one of the best demonstrations of a community walking in forgiveness. Roberts is vulnerable, honest and personable. She falls forward in surrender to God and relies on His strength. Heart wrenching at times, always inspiring, and issuing a call to follow her lead – to choose life by forgiving. If you feel like you can handle this emotional story, I highly recommend it.
Total Forgiveness – When Everything in you wants to Hold a Grudge, Point a Finger and Remember the Pain, God wants you to lay it Aside. Written and narrated by R.T. Kendall. Audible, March 18, 2005. (5 hours 8 minutes) 5 stars – One of the best teachings on forgiveness. Kendall is personal, pastoral and gives practical steps in walking in forgiveness, while giving us the benefits of forgiveness and the consequences of unforgiveness. Sobering at times, convicting, yet bringing hope. Kendall is down to earth, yet empowering. I highly recommend it.
Finding Forgiveness! Written by Ken Dornhecker. Kindle edition, 2013. 5 stars – Dornhecker paints a picture of Christ’s enormous suffering and His amazing love and forgiveness expressed to us on the Cross. And Dornhecker clearly lays out the path of salvation, deliverance and victory we have in Christ because of the price He paid on the Cross for us. I highly recommend this book.
If you would like to read more about the garments we put on and wear
- Compassion – One of 8 Garments We Wear Compassion – One of 8 Garments to Wear – Strength with Dignity
- Kindness – One of 8 Garments We Wear Kindness – One of 8 Garments to Wear – Strength with Dignity
- Humility – One of 8 Garments We Wear Humility – One of 8 Garments to Wear – Strength with Dignity
- Gentleness – One of 8 Garments We Wear Gentleness – One of 8 Garments to Wear – Strength with Dignity
- Patience – One of 8 Garments We Wear Patience – One of 8 Garments to Wear – Strength with Dignity
- Forbearance – One of 8 Garments We Wear Forbearance – One of 8 Garments to Wear – Strength with Dignity
Amplified Bible (AMP). Copyright 2015 by The Lockman Foundation.
A New Theory of Forgiveness. Abstract written by Michele Killough Nelson for Purdue University. Retrieved June 14, 2021 from https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/dissertations/AAI9229170/
Blackaby, Henry, Richard, Thomas, Melvin & Norman. Encounters with God: Colossians/Philemon. Copyright 2008, page 58.
MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Commentary. Thomas Nelson, 2005, page 1743.
MacDonald, William. Believer’s Bible Commentary. Thomas Nelson, 2016, page 2059-60.
New American Standard Bible. Copyright 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.
Palmer, Ian. 20 Hopeful Bible Verses about the Power of Forgiveness. Published April 17, 2020. Retrieved June 10, 2021 from https://www.countryliving.com/life/g32083109/bible-verses-about-forgiveness/
Webster 1828 Dictionary. Retrieved June 8, 2021 from http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/Forgiveness
Wiersbe, Warren B. The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: The Complete New Testament. Published by David C. Cook, 2007, page 687.
Quotes Retrieved June 10, 2021 from https://www.goalcast.com/2018/04/23/21-forgiveness-quotes/ and https://www.oprahdaily.com/life/relationships-love/g29995262/forgiveness-quotes/?slide=17