What does the Bible say about forgiveness and letting go?
All of us have been hurt by someone or will be hurt by someone at some point in our lives.
Sadly, it’s a fact of life and to move on you must forgive.
But sometimes forgiving can be really, really hard.
It seems easier to harbor hate and refuse to forgive. It’s as if being unforgiving is supposed to negatively impact the other person. (Most of the time, it doesn’t).
Personally, it was really difficult for me to forgive my parents. My parents raised me in a strict household where there was abusive behavior.
This has impacted me as an adult in ways I wish it hadn’t. I’ve had to work through this and I’m getting better with the grace of God.
You might share a similar story or maybe your story looks a little different. Regardless, forgiving is an essential aspect of letting go and moving forward.
Here’s what the Bible says about forgiveness and letting go.
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What is true forgiveness?
Many well-meaning people have different ideas of what forgiveness is. Before going into what forgiveness is, I want to outline what it’s not.
Forgiveness is NOT:
- forgetting the offense
- saying the injustice is okay
- always a quick process
- never feeling the pain of the offense ever again
- reconciling with the person who hurt you
Forgiving means you are choosing to let go of the offense that was committed against you.
It involves the act of surrendering vengeful and bitter feelings. You are letting go and moving forward.
Why is forgiveness important?
Forgiveness is important because it allows you to let go and move forward.
I love these two quotes on forgiveness.
“Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”~ Nelson Mandela
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and to discover that prisoner is you” ~ Lewis B. Smedes
We think it’s hurting the other person when we don’t forgive. Really, it’s only hurting ourselves.
We pay the price for not forgiving. When we don’t forgive, we hold bitterness in our hearts.
In the end, forgiving is for yourself, not for the other person.
What does the Bible say about forgiveness?
Jesus speaks of forgiveness several times in the gospels.
Here are Bible verses in the gospels that speak about forgiveness:
- Luke 23:34 – “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.” (NIV).
- Luke 6:37 – “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (NIV).
- Matthew 6:14-15 – “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (NIV).
- Matthew 18:21-22 – “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? Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (NIV).
- Luke 17:3-4 – “So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” (NIV).
- Matthew 6:12-15 – “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. ’For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (NIV).
- Mark 11:25 – “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (NIV).
- Matthew 26:28 – “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (NIV).
Biblical Examples of Forgiveness
It’s nice to glean insight and learn from godly examples. Here are a couple of examples in the Bible of forgiveness displayed.
The Prodigal Son
The story of the prodigal son is documented in Luke 15:11-32. Jesus tells the story of two sons. One son asks his father for his inheritance early, leaves the household, and squanders all his money. Down on his luck, he decides to go back to his father to ask to be his servant.
However, as soon as his father saw him, he embraced his son and gave him only the best. He threw him a homecoming party to celebrate. His father, although sinned against, forgave his son and embraced him. He didn’t feel any bitterness toward his son. He was quick to forgive.
Jesus and the Thief on the Cross
The story of Jesus and the thief on the cross is documented in Matthew 27:38, Luke 23:32-43, and Mark 15:27.
Jesus is on the cross, slowly dying. Two thieves are also on crosses next to him. One of the thieves yells at Jesus to save himself and them. The other thief rebukes him and asks him if he fears God. The thief realizes who Jesus is and asks him to remember him in his kingdom. Jesus replies, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43 ESV).
Jesus forgives the thief for his sins and tells him he will be in paradise with him.
Common Questions About Forgiveness in the Bible
There are many common questions about forgiveness in the Bible. Forgiveness is a biblical command but not really laid out in how it should be done.
What does the Bible say about forgiveness and reconciliation?
Forgiveness and reconciliation is not the same thing. To forgive means to let go of the offense committed against you. To reconcile means to repair the relationship.
Does forgiveness mean you have to reconcile with the person? Well, not necessarily. It depends on the circumstances. If it’s a dangerous situation, it’s best to not reconcile for your own safety.
The Bible does talk a bit about reconciliation though.
Matthew 5 states, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift,” (Matthew 5:23-24 NIV).
In this case, brother/sister means those who are Christians. It’s good to reconcile with other fellow believers because we’re in the family of God.
What does the Bible say about forgiveness of sin?
Sin is a big deal. The Bible tells us we’re all sinners and the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). But God allowed a way for sinners to escape this penalty through his son, Jesus Christ.
God forgives sinners through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Jesus paid the penalty so we didn’t have to. All you have to do is repent and believe the gospel.
If an Almighty and Holy God forgives sinners like us, how much more should we forgive others?
What does the Bible say about forgiveness and forgetting?
Does forgiveness mean you’re supposed to forget the offense ever happened? I don’t think so.
The Bible doesn’t talk about forgetting an offense. I don’t think it’s possible to even do that. Or maybe it is. But normally, we aren’t able to just forget what’s happened in our past.
However, the Bible does say that love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5). And it does tell us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). So, we should love those whom we forgive and not hold the offense against them.
What does the Bible say about forgiveness and healing?
Forgiving isn’t easy. It’s actually really hard. But it’s necessary if you want to move on.
The Bible doesn’t tell us much about the process of forgiving. It just gives us the command to forgive others. It does say that God is close to the brokenhearted though.
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3
What does the Bible say about forgiving someone who isn’t sorry?
Are we supposed to forgive those who aren’t sorry? The short answer is yes.
God commands us to forgive and love others, whether they are sorry or not.
“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 ESV).
How to Forgive Someone Who’s Hurt You
Forgiveness can be really hard, especially when the hurt runs deep. So, how do you practically forgive someone?
The Forgiveness Exercise
Forgiveness can be really hard, but it’s needed. When I started seeing a therapist, she shared this exercise with me. It’s helped me and I wanted to share it with my readers to hopefully help you too!
Step #1 Have a paper and writing utensil ready.
This exercise requires paper and a pen/pencil. Prepare by having a piece of paper and a pen/pencil to write with.
Step #2 Write down the name of the person at the top of the paper.
Next, write down the name of the person who you’re having trouble forgiving at the top of this piece of paper.
Step #3 Write down all the offenses this person has committed against you.
Next, take a moment to think about all the offenses this person has committed against you. Write them down by listing them vertically on the paper underneath where you wrote their name.
Step #4 Write down a price point for each of these offenses.
Now, after you’ve listed the offenses, think about how much these offenses are worth to you. It could be as low as $1 to as high as a million. How much are these offenses worth?
Now, write down these prices next to each offense.
Step #5 Add up the prices of each offense and come up with a total.
After you’ve done this, add up the prices of each offense and come up with a grand total.
Write this total underneath everything you’ve written so far.
Step #6 Keep this paper with you at all times.
There’s something about putting a number on each offense.
At first, it seemed a bit silly for me to do this but it put things in a different perspective for me. I kept this piece of paper with me.
Step #7 Ask yourself if any of the prices have lowered as time passes.
Week after week, my counselor would ask me if the price of any of the offenses had lowered or dissipated. Forgiveness can take a while, and that’s completely okay.
After a few months, I was able to completely forgive everything I had written on that piece of paper. It was encouraging to see my progress. It made me really proud of myself.
Step #8 Continue to pray about forgiveness.
We ended the exercise by praying. Forgiveness is a daily process. It’s not a “one-and-done” sort of thing. She reminded me of this and encouraged me to continue to forgive my parents and not regress.
Now, I want to encourage you to do the same. Are you struggling to forgive someone?
I hope this blog post and exercise helps you forgive. Please let me know in the comments below if this post has helped you or if you have any questions. I wish you well!
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