There are many verses about forgiveness in the Bible. Verses that tell us about God’s love, compassion, and willingness to forgive us when we sin against Him; verses that command us to extend that same love and forgiveness to one another; and stories of people who exemplify what love and forgiveness look like in action.
No one in this world is without sin. Whether we transgress because of the weaknesses of our flesh, or whether we do it unintentionally, we are all guilty of sinning against one another other and against God, yet He freely forgives us when we repent, and expects us to do the same. No matter how big or small the wrong, you are called to let it go.
Our greatest debt, caused by sin,
Is erased by our greater God.
– Xochitl Dixon
When Peter comes to Jesus and asked Him, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” Jesus answers him with an exhortation that extends to us as well. “’No, not seven times,’ Jesus replied, ‘but seventy times seven’” (Matthew 18:21-22 NLT).
Three reasons to forgive.
Forgiveness is not a natural response. It’s a choice. When hurt runs deep, it’s hard to forgive, but as we look at forgiveness in the Bible, we see three reasons why we must do it.
1. If you have accepted God’s gift of forgiveness through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, you have an obligation to forgive those who have done you wrong as well. Colossians 3:13 says, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (NLT). God expects you to extend the same grace towards others that Christ extended to you.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32, ESV
2. If you don’t forgive those who have wronged you, bitterness and resentment will consume you and keep you stuck in the past. It’s like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. Psalm 37:8 says, “Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm” (NLT).
3. You cannot receive what you are unwilling to give. Jesus says, in Matthew 6:14-15, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (NLT). This point is reiterated in the parable of the unforgiving servant:
One person dies in full vigor, completely secure and at ease, well nourished in body, bones rich with marrow. Another dies in bitterness of soul, never having enjoyed anything good. – Job 21:23-25, NIV
Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.
But the man fell down before his master and begged him, “Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.” Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time.
“Be patient with me, and I will pay it,” he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full. When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened.
Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, “You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?” Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart. – Matthew 18:23-35, NLT
Stories of forgiveness in the Bible.
Joseph (Genesis 37, 39-45)
Joseph was Jacob’s eleventh son. His father loved him more than any of his brothers and gave him a robe of many colors. This made his jealous brothers hate him. They hated him even more when he told them about his dreams of them bowing down before him. They plotted to kill him, but then changed their minds and sold him into slavery instead.
Joseph was taken to Egypt where he became a slave in the house of Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials. His life was not easy, but God was with him and caused everything that he did to prosper—even when he was thrown in prison for a season after being falsely accused of assaulting Potiphar’s wife.
Due to his ability to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, and his sound advice, Pharaoh released Joseph from prison and promoted him to governor, given charge of preparing for the great famine so the people of Egypt would not starve when it came.
During the famine, Joseph’s brothers were forced to travel to Egypt to purchase food. They did not recognize Joseph, and bowed down before him just as he had dreamed they would. Joseph did not, however, seek revenge or punish them for what they had done.
Instead, he revealed himself to them and forgave them, saying, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20, ESV).
The prodigal son (Luke 15:11-31)In this story of forgiveness in the Bible, a son asked his father to give him his share of the inheritance, and then traveled to a faraway land where he squandered it all in wild living. He had no money for food, so he got a job on a farm feeding pigs.
Realizing the error of his ways, he decided to go home and beg his father to hire him as one of the servants. His father sees him in the distance, runs to meet him, and instead of reprimanding him, welcomes him home with open arms and throws a party to celebrate his return.
Stephen (Acts 7:54-60)
Stephen was a deacon in the early church. A man full of grace and power, he was anointed by God to preach the gospel and do “great wonders and signs among the people, turning many people’s hearts to God” (Acts 6:8 NLT).
The religious authorities falsely accused him of blaspheming God and Moses, and sentenced him to death by stoning. As he lay dying, he interceded for the people stoning him, crying out “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60).
Jesus (Luke 23)
The greatest example of forgiveness in the Bible is Jesus, who was unjustly condemned to death on a cross. Instead of calling on all the heavenly power available to Him to rescue Him (Matthew 26:53), He willingly died for our sins. In the midst of His anguish, He interceded for those who crucified Him, pleading, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Christian counseling for forgiveness.
Christian counseling involves a combination of biblical principles, examples of forgiveness in the Bible, and clinical intervention. If you have questions or would like to set up an appointment, please give us a call. We would be happy to speak to you and/or set up an appointment to discuss how we can help you manage the challenges you are facing and walk you through the healing process.
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