Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
(Colossians 3:13 NIV)
“...and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
“And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Forgiveness of our sins, by God, is central to our salvation. Forgiveness is made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus. Forgiveness is not something we earn, it is ours by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus (per chapter 29 “Forgiveness of Sins”).
Those who have been forgiven by God are expected, in turn, to forgive others. This is a huge issue with God, to the point that Jesus taught:
“...but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:15)
We saw in chapter 20 (“Love your neighbor…”) that “Whoever does not love abides in death.” (1John 3:14). Likewise, a person’s failure to forgive others appears to be evidence against their salvation. It could be argued that a failure to forgive others is a failure to love others. Unwillingness to forgive others brings one’s salvation into question.
This raises the issue: How can I forgive ______ for what ____ (he/she/they) did? (You fill in the blanks.)
Does forgiving others mean that I forget what they did? Does it mean I must trust them again? No, and No. While forgiveness may impact our memory and trust, these are separate issues. Forgiveness doesn’t mean ignoring sin. We can forgive someone, and still follow Jesus’ teaching about confronting them (Matthew 18:15-17). In matters of law, legal action may still be appropriate, depending on the situation.
Forgiveness is an act of our will. Forgiveness is choosing to let go of bitterness; choosing to not take revenge; choosing to not bring up the matter in spite; choosing to pray that God would have mercy on the one who offended; choosing to allow for the possibility of reconciliation; choosing to give to others the same kind of grace God has given to us.
Forgiveness is not somehow conjuring up a warm feeling toward others. Forgiving others may not make the pain go away; you may still suffer the consequences of the sin of another. Rather, forgiveness is something we choose to do, by an act of our will, by God’s grace, because of love.
Just as “We love because he first loved us” so we are to “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” God gave the example. In love, he sent Jesus so we could be forgiven. In love, we are likewise called to forgive others. Jesus made it possible.
What about you? Do you need to forgive someone? Will you forgive that person? Do not delay anymore.
For Further Reflection
Proverbs 17:9: He who covers over an offense.
Matthew 18:21-35: The parable of the unmerciful servant.
Mark 11:25: If you have anything against anyone.
Acts 7:59-60: Stephen’s prayer.
Romans 12:17-21: Do not repay evil for evil.
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