Video courtesy of THE BEAT by Allen Parr

I still remember the knot in my stomach and wave after wave of bitterness rose up within me as I sat across from my friend James.

Just moments before, he had confessed to spreading rumors about me that damaged some important relationships.

As he stared down at his coffee mug, shame written across his face, my mind was filled with hurtful things to say in response. I had trusted him and defended him, and this was how he repaid me?

But as another wave of bitterness crested inside me, a gentle thought surfaced: “What would Jesus do?”

I knew that Scripture called me to forgive “seventy-seven times” when wronged. Though in that moment it felt utterly impossible.

As I offered James grace anyway, I discovered the incredible freedom that comes through choosing compassion over resentment.

That experience sparked a journey to better understand biblical forgiveness that has profoundly shaped my faith and relationships. Because forgiving someone is often extremely difficult.

Yet as the Bible makes clear, it’s a non-negotiable part of following Jesus.

What Does the Bible Teach About Forgiveness?

Bible Verses on Forgiveness

Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, God urges His people to freely forgive others because we have been graciously forgiven by Him. Jesus said:

“Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”

Matthew 6:12 (NLT)

14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 6:14-15 (NKJV)

Our model is God Himself, who is perfectly merciful, patient, and kind even when we don’t deserve it.

Forgiveness in the Bible is often described as:

  • Releasing someone from guilt and not seeking to punish them for an offense.
  • Choosing not to dwell on it or bring it up to use against them.
  • Wishing them well and restoring a positive relationship if possible.
  • An act of love and grace reflecting God’s mercy.

Forgiveness is not:

  • Denying or diminishing the seriousness of an offense.
  • Tolerating sin or injustice by failing to set boundaries.
  • Forgetting what happened or acting like you were never hurt.
  • Dependent on whether a person apologizes or changes their behavior.

Ultimately, scripture calls us to forgive other people in the same way God forgave us. Ephesians 4:32 (NIV) says:

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Why Is Forgiveness So Important in Christianity?

Why Forgiveness Is Important

In Jesus’ ministry, forgiveness formed the foundation for right relationships: first with God, then with other people.

It runs like a thread throughout the gospel stories, teachings, and miracles, and finally climaxes at the cross.

There Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, so you and I can be set free from guilt and condemnation. 

Without accepting God’s offer of mercy, we remain trapped trying to justify ourselves. Letting go of bitterness and resentment is the natural response to experiencing such grace.

As Christians, when we refuse to forgive others it compromises our witness in the world.

It’s hypocritical to receive God’s mercy and yet withhold mercy from those who sin against us.

Therefore, forgiveness is essential for authentic Christian life and mission.

Several times in scripture Jesus warns that if we refuse to forgive others from our hearts, God will not forgive our offenses either (Matthew 6:15, 18:35).

Therefore we must make every effort to forgive and draw closer to Him.

How Do We Forgive According to the Bible?

A Couple Reading The Bible

Learning how to forgive others involves both spiritual and practical realities. Here are some key principles that have helped me forgive those who hurt me deeply:

  • Pray for the grace to forgive. We can’t conjure up forgiveness from our limited resources. When feeling stuck in unforgiveness, pour out your hurt and anger to God asking Him to meet you there. God will give you the strength to do the seemingly impossible.
  • Acknowledge the wrong but release their guilt. When someone sins against you, you should kindly confront them so reconciliation can happen. But you also must choose not to hold onto it as leverage over them anymore.
  • Replace bitterness with blessing. It’s not enough just to let go of your bitterness towards those who hurt you. You need to take it a step further by praying blessings over their life. Romans 12:14 (NIV) says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” This will empower you to see them through the eyes of compassion.
  • Trust God with justice and consequences. Forgiveness is not the same as trust. It simply means you release your desire for vengeance into God’s hands and trust His wisdom over your limited perspective. Consider Romans 12:19 (NIV), “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath.”

As you walk through these steps by God’s power, you will find incredible freedom and healing.

Your heart will become more aligned with His heart of compassion for broken humanity. And you will sever the destructive root of bitterness before it sprouts thorns in all your relationships.

This is the fruit Jesus promises when you choose forgiveness.

Forgiveness in Action: Bible Stories That Inspire

Forgiveness In Action

Beyond laying out theological truth about forgiveness, the Bible reveals what it looks like in real-world terms through the stories of imperfect people.

In these examples, we find both challenge and encouragement.

  • Joseph’s forgiveness of his brothers: After being sold into slavery, Joseph endured tremendous betrayal and hardship because of jealousy within his own family (Genesis 37-50). Yet Joseph forgave his brothers, and even used his position of influence in Egypt to save their lives. His mercy paved the way for reconciliation.
  • Jesus forgave those who crucified him: While nailed to the cross itself, Jesus prayed over his executioners, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34). This shows us that no offense is beyond the reach of grace.
  • Stephen’s forgiveness of his killers: In Acts 7, Stephen was being stoned to death yet cried out, “Lord do not hold this sin against them!” This demonstration of grace convicted witnesses like Saul who later became the Apostle Paul.

These and many other biblical stories remind us that forgiveness is possible even in extreme injustices. They put flesh on spiritual truth through real life.

Your hurts may not seem as dramatic as these examples. Yet on a personal level, choosing daily to forgive even small offenses builds Christlike character in you.

7 Bible Verses About Forgiveness

Bible Verses On Forgiveness

What does the Bible say about forgiveness? Here are some Bible verses about forgiveness:

  • “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13 (NIV)
  • 21 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.” Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV) 
  • “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 (NIV)
  • “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” Ephesians 1:7 (NIV)
  • Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38 (NIV)
  • 13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13-14 (NKJV)
  • “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12 (ESV)

Key Takeaways on Forgiveness in the Bible

Forgiveness In The Bible
  • Throughout scripture, God highly values forgiving others because He has so freely forgiven us through Christ.
  • Unforgiveness acts like a bitter root that contaminates all areas of life and compromises your Christian witness.
  • Pray for the supernatural strength to release the guilt and consequences of an offense into God’s hands.
  • Forgiveness is needed not only for reconciliation but also for healing and personal freedom.
  • Even extremely hurtful offenses and horrific injustices can be forgiven by grace.
  • Scripture gives many examples of radical grace that both convicted and transformed early believers.

Final Thoughts

Implementing these biblical principles about forgiveness has proven truly life-giving for me. It has rescued friendships and relationships and brought incredible freedom in the most difficult circumstances. 

My prayer is that this brief overview inspires you to unlock the power of grace toward those who hurt you.

We all have areas of unresolved pain and conflict with others. But as 1 John 1:9 (NIV) reminds us:

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Receive His incredible mercy afresh today, then pass it on to others through the gift of forgiveness.

Frequently Asked Questions About Forgiveness

Q. How do I know I have truly forgiven someone?

A. You have fully forgiven when you do not dwell on the offense anymore, speak negatively about the person, or let it influence your interactions.

Forgiveness brings freedom and peace not resentment.

Q. Is forgiveness a one-time event or an ongoing process?

A. Forgiveness itself happens the moment when you release someone from their offense in your heart.

However, walking out the implications of that decision daily is an ongoing journey. As new feelings arise, continue entrusting them to God.

Q. What if I forgive someone and they still keep hurting me?

A. Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation or restoring trust which requires changed behavior over time.

You forgive anyone who repents. But if they keep hurting you, set wise boundaries and do not hold onto the desire for revenge.

Q. Is forgiveness just excusing or tolerating abuse and injustice?

A. Absolutely not. We should thoughtfully confront sin while also releasing any claim to personal vengeance upon the offender. Scripture shows how this balance brings redemption.

Q. What if I don’t feel like forgiving someone who really hurt me?

A. You likely won’t feel like forgiving without God’s help! But He promises to supply the grace and power to forgive when you ask Him.

Just take small steps of obedience while trusting Him to change your heart along the way.

I hope these insights help you to unpack forgiveness according to the Bible understandably and practically.

If you have any other questions, please feel free to reach out to me in the comments below!

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