Forgiveness is a subject that is often poorly taught. We tend to take it as something simple. But by understanding the complexities of forgiveness, we can then find ourselves walking closer with God and one another.


What is Forgiveness?

Websters Dictionary (1913) cites to forgive as:

  1. To give up resentment or claim to requital on account of (an offense or wrong); to remit the penalty of; to pardon;
  1. To cease to feel resentment against, on account of wrong committed; to give up claim to requital from or retribution upon (an offender); to absolve; to pardon;

So, forgiveness is the act of forgiving. We pardon the wrongdoing or offense, let go of resentment, and absolve (release, set free, unbind) the person or persons.


Why should I Forgive?

There are times when offense or wrong can cause deep pain and resentment. It can go so deep that forgiveness is difficult. Some people feel they cannot forgive. It could be they do not want to.

Understand that not forgiving does not hurt the offender as much as unforgiveness hurts you. You are the one holding on to the pain by not forgiving. Does not forgiving change what happened? Does it make you feel better? Not when you realize it only does you harm. And the more you live with unforgiveness, the less capacity you have for forgiveness, or to be forgiven…


Not enough! What else have you got?

Jesus said, “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

How can one pray “forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” (Luke 11:4 – and we can’t as we’ll find out later…) if we are not willing to forgive? To receive, one must give. And I know what you're thinking…

“It's too difficult. It's hard. I don't feel it. I don't want to!” God the Father understands that fully. He knew humanity would disobey Him and reject His love. He knew we would not only reject but slay his only son. How would you feel? would you want to forgive the person or persons who slew your child?

Yet He did! “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Not only that, Jesus himself forgave us! “And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34

Yet we find ourselves unable, or unwilling to forgive the slightest of offenses…


The Forgotten aspect of Forgiveness

There are two sides to a coin. The other side forgiveness is repentance. This is often where we trip up and make it difficult for others to forgive. Oh yes, even God Himself found it difficult to forgive at times!

But we often treat repentance as a light thing. Sure, the meaning of true repentance is to be truly sorry for, acknowledge the wrong, ask for forgiveness, and turn from wrongdoing (do not repeat it). Do you know what we left on the table? Longsuffering!

We look at longsuffering as bearing with something or someone. There is more. Look at this verse…

“Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” Luke 17:3-4 

That can be one tough order! Still, we love to do the math and say, “you have to forgive me as many times in one day as I sin as long as I ask forgiveness!” No, as many times as you repent. Look again at what repentance is. This is because some things can be difficult to stop doing and we are all prone to make mistakes.


Follow After Peace…

But note the longsuffering in this. Now let’s take it a step further. “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14

The KJV says “Follow after peace…”. We love to jump to the holiness part, but gloss over the first part. How often have you heard someone say, “Well, I said I was sorry”, or “I asked for forgiveness. If they won't accept it, that's on them. I did my part…”. Sorry, but you are the one who missed the boat!

Just as we must forgive, we must repent. We must strive in repentance. We must follow or chase peace with one another. You know some offenses are difficult to release. This is when we must chase peace. A simple or curt “I'm sorry” or “Forgive me” doesn't always cut it.

How sorrowful are you if you are willing to let a person you hurt or offended go, still holding resentment against you? Is it on them? You are mistaken if you think so…


Be Reconciled!

Jesus said, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24

You must be reconciled! We do not get off letting one another remain offended. We must make things right. If we do not, our prayers are hindered (the gift)! God wants us to love one another enough to chase peace. It could take time. Can you imagine a spouse who is unfaithful seeking quick forgiveness? It could happen, but how likely is it? And that's if they truly repented!

So, you see, many who think they are saved may find themselves on the outs when Jesus returns because of this one thing. Confessing can be scary (and note that you must confess to the one you offended, not a confession buddy who keeps your dirty secrets…), and forgiveness can be tough.


What if they reject my Repentance?

What can you do? If they reject you after repeated attempts at reconciliation, you let them be. You cannot force anyone to forgive you. What you should not do is hold their non-acceptance against them. They have to deal with their issue and you holding this over their head will not help. 

Hopefully they will come around in time and accept. And if they refuse to forgive (or repent if the offender), leave it in God's hands. If they are a true believer, they will. 

If God can be longsuffering with us and forgive us, who deserve death, we can be longsuffering and forgive one another. So, forgive and be free of the pain. Chase peace and win back your brother!