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Forgiveness

Geoff Geoffrey Daniels

Forgiveness is a very interesting “broad" subject. There have been lectures on it and many articles and books written accordingly. What then is forgiveness and how does it affect us? The Bible has a lot to say about forgiveness and why christians must forgive. The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes forgiveness as follows: “to stop feeling anger toward (someone who has done something wrong) : to stop blaming (someone) : to stop feeling anger about (something) : to forgive someone for (something wrong) : to stop requiring payment of (money that is owed)”

Admittedly, forgiveness is not easy for everyone to practice. As christians, do we have an option whether to forgive or not to forgive? Not according to God’s word, the Bible, where we have specific instructions about forgiving others. For example, Jesus said, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive if you have anything against anyone, forgive so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25). Jesus also said, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). Failure to obey God’s word will not only interrupt our fellowship with Him but also jeopardize our relationships with each other.

Of course, the greatest example of forgiveness is Jesus Christ Himself in His shed blood and death on the cross. The Bible is very clear, “For our sake [God] has made [Jesus], to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). And again, as Jesus was being crucified He prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

It is only reasonable to forgive others, considering that we are the recipients of God’s forgiveness. The Apostle Paul wrote, "Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13). Observe the imperative here, “so you also must forgive.” We have a a divine obligation to forgive others who wrong or hurt us in some way, shape or form.

If we choose not to forgive, we are committing sin, because we have already received God’s forgiveness for our sins. In His instruction about prayer, Jesus specifically stated, “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” (Matthew 6:14-15). It is worth noting that failure to forgive gives rise to anger and bitterness and robs us of the joy of freedom from anger and peace of mind we would experience

On one occasion, the Apostle Peter approached the Lord and asked, “How often will my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus responded, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times’ (Matthew 18:21-22). In other words, Jesus is saying, “multiple” times.

Paul exhorts us concerning the walk of the believer who is in dwelt by the Holy Spirit, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Here again we see the inescapable responsibility and duty to forgive others which is strongly based on our forgiveness from God.

The lack of forgiveness can lead to retribution towards those we perceive as being against us, hostile to us, or even hating us. The Bible addresses this situation as follows: “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:17,19). Also, we read, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing” (1 Peter3:9).

Forgiving others, helps us to actually free ourselves from resentment or trying to “get even” with the one who has harmed us, not thinking about “how or why” the harm was done.

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