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What Does Scripture Say About Forgiveness?

Due to man’s sinful nature, we live in a world where injustice happens everywhere. The awareness that something unfair is happening brings about some of the strongest emotions in a person. From childhood, a child can easily feel significant anger towards someone for taking his candy or stealing his toy. A bullied teenager can feel shame and harbor hatred towards those who have bullied them in school. A businessman may be resentful after losing to unfair competition in the marketplace. Bitterness, hatred, anger, and vengeance start to consume people’s thoughts and emotions, and they may lose self-control. In Jesus’ time, the law of lex talionis, “life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth,” was very popular, and people readily agreed to it. The world unfortunately teaches us to strike back or get even when offended. Even popular action movies promote vengeance in the name of justice. The sad thing is hatred and vengeance always leave behind an ugly and endless cycle of more hatred and vengeance. Nothing really gets resolved. However, Jesus teaches us something that goes against all of that and brings an end to the cycle of hatred and revenge. He taught forgiveness.

Jesus teaches us to respond not in kind but in kindness whenever we are confronted by hurt. He taught us that we must forgive as much as needed whenever we are offended by our brothers and sisters. Christ did not just talk about forgiveness, He exemplified it on the cross.

Forgiveness may not be the easiest path to take whenever we are offended, but it is the only way forward. Forgiveness may not take back what has been done or said, but it can start the process toward peace and healing. It allows us to live a future free from grudges and unnecessary burdens. Getting even when people hurt us does not really change anything positively, but only brings more hurt to yourself and others. To choose to forgive is to choose a better life.

In Ephesians 4:30-32, Scripture tells us that we must not allow bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander to take control of our lives, for it grieves the Holy Spirit. As God’s children, we must not allow these sins to overcome our emotions. Being a new creation, we are also empowered to respond differently, to be kind to each other, compassionate, and to forgive one another, just as God has forgiven us through Christ. We are able to forgive others because Jesus forgave us.

To better grasp forgiveness, we must understand the extent of God’s forgiveness for us. We must understand the magnitude of our offense towards God and the magnitude of His mercy and grace when He released forgiveness to all mankind.

According to (Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.), if we have done anything against God in our lifetime, we must pay for every single offense. The Bible says that the payment for each sin is death. All of us have sinned and offended our holy God in our thoughts, words, and actions. Imagine if we were to put all of our sins together… it would be quite a pile. Let’s say that you have sinned roughly one thousand times per year and are already in your thirties. Your sins would total more than 30,000, so you would have to pay the penalty for sin by dying more than 30,000 times. But we only have one life to live. That means we owe God a debt that is impossible to pay. We must all die.

What Does Scripture Say About Forgiveness?

What Does Scripture Say About Forgiveness?

As mentioned in Hebrews 9:21-22, our sins need a substitutionary sacrifice to take our place. That is what the Jews were doing previously, but it was not enough. Scripture tells us that without the shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness. So, does this mean we are doomed?

John 3:16-17 tells us that because God loves us so much, He could not allow sin to condemn us to hell forever. He sent His one and only Son to die and pay for our sins. He did this to save those who would believe in Him.

According to John 19:30, at the last moment of Jesus on the cross, He cried out, “It is finished!” In Greek, this is tetelestai, which means “It is paid in full!” Jesus paid our impossible debt in full. Through His mercy and grace, He has fully forgiven our sins with His death on the cross (Ephesians 1:7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;). What a wonderful thing to be forgiven by God in such a way! None of us have ever deserved the extravagant expression of God’s love and forgiveness, yet it was freely given to us. Now, if we have received His forgiveness and unconditional love, how should we respond to those who have offended us?

What Does Scripture Say About Forgiveness?

What Does Scripture Say About Forgiveness?

In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus taught us to forgive others as we have been forgiven through the parable of the unforgiving servant. He told the story of a servant who owed his king an impossible debt; he, his family, and everything he had was nearly sold for payment. However, the king showed mercy when he begged, released the man, and forgave his debt. Sadly, this same servant did not show the same forgiveness to another servant who owed him a small sum. When the king found out, he threw the servant in prison. This story tells us that we must learn to release forgiveness to our fellow men whenever we are offended. Compared to our offenses towards God, the offenses of our brothers and sisters are nothing. Unfortunately, we don’t extend to others the same grace that was given to us by God. We must forgive as our heavenly Father forgave us.

In Matthew 18:21-22 ESV, Peter asked how many times we should forgive an offender and suggested seven times. In their time, Jewish rabbis would teach that forgiving three times was an acceptable limit. Peter may have sounded very generous raising that to seven, but Jesus took it even further. To forgive not just seven times, but seventy-seven times. That doesn’t mean that we should count up to seventy-seven times when forgiving someone. Jesus meant that we must forgive those who wronged us as many times as they ask for forgiveness. Just as God keeps on forgiving us each time we sin, we must do the same for others.

Since the beginning, God has been patient with man, despite our unfaithfulness. We constantly rebel against God and neglect our relationship with Him. We receive His painful discipline each time, yet He remains so forgiving. Indeed, God is merciful, gracious, forgiving, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love (Exodus 34:6, Numbers 14:18, Nehemiah 9:17, Psalms 86:15). Even so, we must not forget that God still exacts the ultimate punishment for sinners who remain unrepentant even until death. If that is true, is there a sin that God cannot forgive?

In the accounts in Matthew 12:22-32 and Mark 3:22-30, it seems like Jesus talks about the “unpardonable or unforgivable sin.” The sin Jesus is talking about here is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. One is guilty of blasphemy when one willfully disrespects God’s name, character, or work, whether verbally or in writing. Associating or characterizing God, His work, or His name with evil or negating the good that should be ascribed to Him is also considered blasphemy.

In these verses, Jesus had just finished exorcizing a demon-possessed man that was deaf and blind. This miracle astounded people and made them wonder if Jesus really was the Messiah for whom they had all been waiting. A group of Pharisees then came into the picture and started discouraging the burgeoning faith of the witnesses. They discredited the miracle of Christ by saying that Beelzebul, the prince of demons, performed it and that Jesus was driving out demons (Matthew 12:24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.).

Matthew 12:24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.

What Does Scripture Say About Forgiveness?

Even though there was undeniable evidence that Jesus was operating with the Holy Spirit’s power, the Pharisees still associated Christ with the devil and discredited the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus retorted by saying that anyone who speaks against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven (Matthew 12:32).

We must understand that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, or what we call “the unpardonable sin,” applies only in specific circumstances. Jesus must be on earth in the flesh like before, and we must witness Him perform miracles personally and then accuse Him of relying upon the power of the devil. Obviously, Jesus is no longer on Earth, as he has already ascended and is seated at the right hand of the Father. Thus, such an unforgivable sin cannot be repeated at present.

In other words, there is no sin that God cannot forgive, but people who remain unrepentant until the day they die will still be condemned to eternity in hell. The issue here does not lie with God’s dispensation of forgiveness but on the person not availing of God’s available grace to forgive by continuing to live an unrepentant life. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross paved the way for the forgiveness of all our sins, as He received the full penalty for our sins. A renewed and repentant life in the salvation and Lordship of Christ enables us to overcome sin and flesh through the power of the Holy Spirit.

This verse in 1 John 1:9 tells us of the assurance that when we confess and surrender our sins to God, He will always be faithful and forgive us. He is able to forgive and cleanse us from all sins, regardless of their kind and severity. Having an encounter with Christ’s forgiveness and His love overflowing in us allows us to have the will to forgive others as well. Forgiving others for the hurt and injustice inflicted on us may be the hardest thing to do. The memory of what was done or said is just too much to take. The flesh always seeks retribution, and if acted upon, it never leads to anything good; it merely leads a person down a destructive path. Bitterness, hatred, and vengeance do not just hurt offenders but also bring so much hurt to one’s own soul. If we allow Christ to change our hearts and release forgiveness, just as we have received forgiveness, it averts the offended from the path of self-destruction. As Christ’s love and forgiveness is unconditional, we are also enabled to love and forgive unconditionally.

It’s amazing how forgiveness can change a person’s heart. We’ve seen and heard astonishing stories of Christians responding with forgiveness, despite the injustice done to them. There is a young man who has grown to hate his abusive and negligent father. He harbors so much resentment during his teenage years and plans on getting back at his dad someday. However, after a life-changing encounter with Christ, his heart, which was filled with anger and hatred is suddenly filled with love and forgiveness. God truly does turn a heart of stone into a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19).

There’s another story of a father who had a daughter studying at a university far from their hometown. The daughter had a very successful and happy time in college until the year she was about to graduate. A thief broke into her apartment, they struggled, and the robbery sadly ended in her untimely demise. She was stabbed to death. The news reached her father and it devastated him. He had high hopes for his daughter’s life, yet just when she was ready for the finish line of one of her dreams, her life was violently ended. Her dad was a grounded Christian and when we spoke to the father personally, he said that he had visited his daughter’s killer in prison. In the face of the man who murdered his dear daughter, he chose to express forgiveness instead of hatred and condemnation. On top of that, he shared the mercy and grace of Christ to the criminal and prayed for him. What a wonderful display of Jesus Christ’s radical love, even in the midst of painful injustice.

In Luke 23:34, Jesus Himself demonstrated radical forgiveness, though His most touching display was on the cross. He committed no sin but instead showed love even towards His oppressors. He showed love to the people whom He healed, provided for, served, and encouraged through His teachings and miracles. The same crowd who later waved palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel (John 12:13)!” was the same crowd that condemned Jesus on the cross by crying out, “Crucify him!” Jesus was mocked, flogged, punched, pushed, pierced, shamed, and executed without committing a single crime. And on the cross, before His oppressors, he pleaded to His Father in heaven, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing!” What a beautiful display of love and forgiveness!

In Ephesians 1:7, in the abundance of God’s kindness and grace, His one and only Son bought our freedom with His own priceless blood. For that, our sins are forgiven when we accept His finished work on the cross. The forgiveness of Christ can heal one’s soul and brings freedom from painful and unnecessary burdens while also healing broken relationships.

Why is confession important?

Pent-up emotions and feelings of guilt can ruin one’s mental and emotional life. Toxic thoughts and emotions that are neglected, unprocessed, or expressed unhealthily can deeply hurt one’s soul. Fortunately, there is a way to process it in a very helpful forum—through the power of confession to God and fellow believers.

We confess our sins before God because our sins are primarily an offense towards God. Confessing means having the humility to come forward with our sins and acknowledge that we have offended God (Psalm 51).

According to James 5:15-16, James urges us to practice the act of confessing our sins to fellow believers for encouragement, correction, and prayer. Look for trustworthy brothers and sisters in the church who love you enough and have the willingness to listen and intercede for you in your personal struggles. These brothers and sisters stand as your accountability and prayer partners. We must be wise and discerning in choosing whom we confess to. They must be people who are able to give Godly counsel, can help in practical ways, and are willing to stand in the gap for us in prayers.

Confessing our sins to people we have offended is also the right thing to do in order to pursue forgiveness and reconciliation. When we settle our differences with people we have offended with honesty, humility, and the desire to take responsibility, it is seen as honorable before God. After all, Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor. When we seek unity even in conflicts, we are showing love to others, and in doing so, we show love to God.

However, we must also understand that repentance is the most important aspect of confession. The motivation for our confession must not just be clearing our conscience; it should be about admitting and taking responsibility for the hurt we have done against God and other people. Confession without real repentance is just empty talk without the proper resolution. Jesus tells us that there must be fruits in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:).

What Does Scripture Say About Forgiveness?

What Does Scripture Say About Forgiveness?

According to 2 Chronicles 7:14, we must trust that as we confess our sins to God, seek help from the body of Christ, and seek reconciliation with people we have offended, God is able to forgive all, bringing healing to our soul and mending broken relationships.

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