What is Forgiveness?
"Forgive: to grant free pardon for or remissions of (an offence,
debt, etc); to absolve; to give up all claim in account of; to grant
free pardon to (a person); to cease to feel resentment against"
[Women by Grace, source].
interesting that the Hebrew word for 'forgive' means two things: to
remit a debt and to pay it. It is the same word for both"
Tripp, Forgiveness. What It Is and Why It Matters, p.?].
Forgiveness is a
Decision Not a Feeling
"If I forgive someone
when I don't feel like doing so, won't I be a hypocrite?..."
"To think that way one must adopt an
unbiblical, feeling-orientated view of hypocrisy ... All day long,
in order to be responsible to God and others, I must do many things
against my feelings. What does it mean when I pursue my
responsibilities against my feelings? It simply means I am being
responsible ... You can make a promise whether or not you feel like
it, and you can keep it whether or not you feel like it"
Adams, From Forgiven to Forgiving, p.23].
"There is nothing
in the Bible about 'feelings of forgiveness' or 'having forgiving
feelings' toward another ... Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:32 to
'forgive one another just as God, for Christ's sake, has forgiven'
us ... that means our forgiveness is to be modelled after God's ...
Obviously when God forgives, He does not simply sit in the heavens
and emote. So forgiveness isn't a feeling. If it were, we would
never know that we have been forgiven. No, when God forgives, He
goes on record. He says so. He declares 'I will not remember
your sins' (Isaiah 43:25, see also Jeremiah 31:34). Isn't that
wonderful? When He forgives, God lets us know that He will no
longer hold our sins against us. If forgiveness were merely an
emotional experience, we would not know that were forgiven. But
praise God, we do, because forgiveness is a process at the end of
which God declares that the matter of sin has been dealt with once
and for all. Now, what is that declaration? ... God makes a promise.
Forgiveness is not a feeling; forgiveness is a promise!"
E. Adams, From Forgiven to Forgiving, pp.11-12].
Lord's grace, commit yourself to obey Jesus' command to forgive.
Your obedience must not depend on how you feel toward the offender
but on Christ's example and command"
[Patrick H. Morrison,
Forgive! As the Lord forgive Forgave You, p.9].
Forgiveness is a Promise
"When our God forgive us, He promises
that He will not remember our sins against us anymore ... Obviously
the omniscient God ... does not forget, but He can 'not remember'.
Forgetting is passive ... 'Not remembering' is active; it is a
promise whereby one person ... determines not to remember the sins
of another against him. To 'not remember' is simply a
graphic way of saying, 'I will not bring up these matters to you or
others in the future. I will bury them and not exhume the bones to
beat you over the head with them. I will never use these sins
against you'." [Jay E. Adams, From Forgiven to Forgiving,
"When you say, 'I forgive you' to
another, you make a promise to him. It is a threefold promise. You
promise not to remember his sin by not bringing it up to him, to
others, or to yourself. The sin is buried. That promise is sometimes
easier to make than to keep ... two things may help: First, remember
how many times each day Jesus forgives you. Second, if you've really
forgiven, it isn't the seventh time, it isn't the fifth. It isn't
even the second. It is always the first"
[Jay E. Adams, From Forgiven to Forgiving,
"True forgiveness is a covenant act,
a promise by which we relinquish all claims against the offender
that resulted from his sin. The righteous forgiver 'keeps his oath
even when it hurts' (Psalm 15:4)"
[Patrick H. Morrison, Forgive!
As the Lord Forgave You, p.17].
Forgiveness is Not an Option; It is a Command
"Remember: forgiveness is an
important condition to fellowship with the Heavenly Father. It is
not an option. God commands it. Nor may we guess about how to
forgive, whom to forgive, when to forgive, or how often to forgive.
God has not left us without explicit information. The biblical data
are not difficult to understand in spite of the fact that many seem
to have found ways in which to misunderstand them. Mostly these
erroneous ideas come from two sources: (1) psychology, which some
attempt to integrate with biblical truth, thereby distorting the
truth in favour of the psychology; (2) failure to study carefully
the biblical teachings, substituting guesses and surmises instead"
[Jay E. Adams, From Forgiven to Forgiving, Preface].
"I can tell you from personal
experience that the Lord will allow you to go 'round and 'round the
rugged rocks, until you learn to let go of your resentment toward
[...] (and anyone else towards whom you harbour resentment) and
actually act out the forgiveness you have extended. It has to be
said that Jesus made it quite clear in a number of places, that the
Father's forgiveness is withheld unless we forgive those who have
hurt us. God will not give us the power to feel forgiving,
until we first actively choose to forgive, which means that once we
have forgiven, we relinquish the right to hold the matter over the
other's head again. We don't have to forget (that's not in
Scripture), but we do have to forgive. It's non-negotiable"
[AH email discussion with [...],
forwarded to me, 2012].
Why We Must Forgive Others
"Although we would all like our own
sins forgiven, we often find it difficult to forgive others
completely and genuinely, particularly when the offense has hurt us
deeply or often. Yet Jesus teaches us to pray, 'Forgive us our
debts, as we forgive our debtors' (Matt 6:12). By calling sins
'debts', Jesus pictures the sinner's moral obligation to pay the
consequences for any offence against God or another person.
Forgiveness grants release from that obligation. Instead of
demanding a penalty, the forgiver - God or man - assumes the loss by
setting aside his due. He extends mercy instead of judgement"
[Patrick H. Morrison, Forgive! As the Lord Forgave You,
"A wise man will make haste to
forgive, because he knows the true value of time, and will not
suffer it to pass away in unnecessary pain (Samuel Johnson)"
Van Nattan, Forgiven, source].
"It is wrong to hold others in
bondage when we ourselves have been forgiven"
[Mary Van Nattan,
"I wish I had learned earlier about
forgiveness, both giving it and receiving it and the freedom of
spirit it can bring. You cannot have a happy old age without it. My
daughter once wrote these words, 'When a situation has broken down
in hurt and bitterness, and disagreement is so deep there seems no
solution on earth - there remains forgiveness'."
Reluctant Missionary, p.?].
Forgiveness Demonstrates Christ's Presence
Forgiveness is the
Indispensable Sign of a
"Jesus said that people would
recognise us as his disciples by the way we love one another (John
13:35). One of the ways love is expressed is in forgiveness"
Tripp, Forgiveness. What It Is and Why It Matters, p.?].
"Humility and the forgiveness of
injuries were the two graces which the Lord constantly impressed
upon His hearers, for well He knew how foreign both are to the
natural heart" [G.V. Chichester, Bible Thoughts for Daily Life,
"As it did for Jesus, our forgiving
others means bearing increased pain for the sake of those we forgive
instead of making them bear the pain of our anger and retaliation"
[Patrick H. Morrison, Forgive! As the Lord Forgave You,
"Jesus died for them too, just as he
died for me ... How are they helped by my damning them? ... If I do
not forgive, am I not unfaithful and unjust to God and man? I really
have no choice in this if I am to be like my Lord" [Steve Van Nattan,
"The call to
forgive can actually add pain to the offense. Are we now to take on
this additional burden for the sake of someone who hurt us in the
first place? Is that reasonable? ... our anger is against Christ,
who makes this 'unreasonable' demand ... Although His command is
simple, clear, and loving, our sinfulness, our belief, our
conflicting feelings, and garbled communication make obeying
difficult. We need both practical understanding and the inner
discipline of the Holy Spirit"
[Patrick H. Morrison, Forgive! As
the Lord Forgave You, pp.3-8].
"Forgiveness is not merely a soft
attitude toward a harsh fact; forgiveness is the vital action of
love, seeking to restore the harmony that has been shattered"
[Dwight Small, Design for Christian Marriage].
"Forgiveness recognises the wrongdoer
as a person. He has done wrong, and about this there is no pretence.
But this is not the whole truth about him. He is still of infinite
value as a person, since every person is unique and irreplaceable by
any other. Since he has so greatly injured himself by doing wrong,
he is in special need of help, and help that can be rendered only by
the one to whom he has done the wrong ... Forgiveness can spring
only from a self-forgetfulness that is more concerned about
another's wellbeing than about its own, and that longs for the
renewal for fellowship even when fellowship has been flouted and
destroyed by the wilful aggression of another"
[Stephen Neill, A
Genuinely Human Existence].
"Before we can enter into any lasting
fellowship with another, we must learn to forgive since we all hurt
one another. The Bible says, 'forgiving one another...' It
does not simply say, 'forgiving others', but 'forgiving one
another.' It is a mutual cooperative venture. Not only do we
need to forgive, we also need to receive forgiveness. It is the
indispensable sign of a Christian. Each of us stands daily in need
of the forgiveness of God; therefore, we need to hear what God has
to say to us about that. Jesus taught us to pray, 'Forgive us our
debts, as we also forgive our debtors.' It is clear then that
unless we forgive, we are not forgiven"
[Dr. D. James Kennedy,
'Foreword', Jay E. Adams, From Forgiven to Forgiving].
"The angel who gave the message of
Jesus to the faithful women [on the morning of the Lord's
resurrection] had doubtless been one of the rejoicing host in heaven
over Peter's tears of repentance. Now he is the bearer of Christ's
tender thought of His erring servant, 'Tell his disciples and
Peter.' Peter had fallen the lowest, but his heart was now the
saddest of all the chosen band. We read of no word of rebuke or
reproach. The dealings of our Lord with His disciples after His
resurrection, were, if possible, even more loving than before. Let
us remember this not only for our own endless comfort, but also in
our dealings with the faults and infirmities of others. Has any
wronged us? Has any friend forsaken us, when things have gone
against us? Have those we trusted and loved left us to our enemies,
without so much as speaking one word in our defence? Let us try to
cultivate the feelings of our Lord towards His disciples, and like
Him, 'forgive, if we have ought against any'."
for Daily Life, pp.233-234].
"It is a joy to accept forgiveness, but it is almost a greater joy
to give forgiveness" [Corrie Ten
"The Communion Service is supremely
the moment in our Church Services when we focus on the cost of our
forgiveness. In the old Anglican Service, before the congregation
receives the bread and wine, symbols of the Cross, the minister
would always read these words from the Book of Common Prayer: 'You
that sincerely and earnestly repent of your sins, and are in love
and charity with your neighbours, draw near with faith...'
It is not only the acceptance of our own forgiveness that qualifies
us to join in celebrating such an event, but also the extending of
that forgiveness to others. So we demonstrate our membership in the
family of God" [Dick Tripp, Forgiveness. What It Is and Why It
Two Parts to Forgiveness: Positional and Transactional
When Should You
"Forgiveness must be
extended to all who say they repent - even if the offence has been
repeated (cf. Luke 17:3). But it is only to be granted to those who
confess wrongdoing, claim to be repentant and ask forgiveness
(Proverbs 28:13). In Mark 11:25, Jesus tells you to forgive those
who wronged you when you pray, thereby avoiding bitterness
and resentment (Ephesians 4:32). But that is very different from
granting the wrongdoer forgiveness. You do that only when he
repents. Forgiveness of others must reflect God's forgiveness; He
forgave you when you repented"
[Jay Adams, Forgiveness,
Evangelical Times, 1997].
"While we must not harbor
bitterness in our hearts (Hebrews 12:15) or repay evil for evil (1
Peter 3:9), we should make sure we follow God's lead and not extend
forgiveness to the unrepentant. In short, we should withhold
forgiveness from those who do not confess and repent; at the same
time, we should extend the offer of forgiveness and maintain an
attitude of readiness to forgive"
"If 'forgiveness' is given
prematurely without the prerequisites of confession and repentance,
then the truth has not been dealt with openly by both parties. If
the offender doesn't acknowledge his sin, then he really does not
understand what it means to be forgiven. In the long run, bypassing
confession or repentance doesn't help the offender to understand the
significance of sin, and it precludes a sense of justice, causing
the offended person to battle even more against bitterness"
How Often Must We Forgive?
Forgive Seventy Times Seven
"If a sin is repeated, may we not
bring up that previous offense? No! We must not hold a forgiven sin
against someone, nor may we retract previous forgiveness because of
the present sin; in this sense the old forgiven incident remains
closed" [Patrick H. Morrison, Forgive! As the Lord Forgave You,
"[R]emember how many times each day
Jesus forgives you ... if you've really forgiven, it isn't the
seventh time, it isn't the fifth. It isn't even the second. It is
always the first" [Jay E. Adams, From Forgiven to Forgiving,
Forgive: An Unforgiving Spirit
"General Oglethorpe once said to John
Wesley, 'I never forgive and I never forget.' Wesley replied,
'Then, Sir, I hope you never sin'."
[quoted at Mary Van Nattan,
"The Bible teaches that if we are hurt by someone, with God's help
we must seek to forgive that person ... Forgiveness is very
difficult ... If we choose to forgive someone we may be opening
ourselves up to being hurt again [and] if we choose to forgive
someone we are giving up the right to get even. The teaching of
Scripture is we are not to seek revenge. We are not supposed to try
and get even (Romans 12:19). If we are caught in the trap of saying
'I just can't forgive', the reality is it is not 'can't', but
'won't'... We are choosing not to forgive. The Lord will help us to
forgive if we ask Him to" [web
article, no longer extant].
"The point of the story in Matthew 18
is obvious. If we are Christians, we have been forgiven an infinite
debt that we owe to God which we could never hope to pay ourselves.
If we in turn do not share that forgiveness with others, God treats
it very seriously. It is significant that, in Matthew's gospel
particularly, what Jesus condemns most strongly is the proud,
uncharitable, unforgiving, jealous spirit"
Forgiveness. What It Is and Why It Matters, p.?].
"If you have little
experience of or confidence in the life-changing power of God's
grace, you will likely be ungracious in your demands of others. A
critical spirit and negative expectations will dominate your
relationships. Forgiveness and the desire to restore and build up
others will be far from your mind. In general, you will have little
patience with the weaknesses of others, especially those close to
you. When tensions arise, you will leap to your own defence while
trying to pin the blame on others. ... You might even go on the
attack and find fault with them, in order to sooth your own
conscience ... Proverbs 3:11-12 and 1 Peter 5:5b-7,10 - This
God-given humbling dissolves a hyper-critical or defensive,
unforgiving spirit" [Patrick H. Morrison, Forgive! As the Lord
Forgave You, pp.3-8].
"Probably more characters are spoiled
by the nursing of grudges and the harbouring of grievances than by
anything else" [R.V.G. Tasker, quoted in Dick Tripp, Forgiveness.
What It Is and Why It Matters, p.?].
"Christian, is there someone you have
refused to forgive? ... Seek forgiveness yourself for your sin of
refusal or putting off reconciliation ... Repent, ask God's
forgiveness, and then go and do what Christ commands. Refusal to
forgive is a decision for vengeance. It is taking vengeance into
your own hands ... Because the Lord has said, 'Vengeance is Mine; I
will repay', to take vengeance of any kind - even the withholding of
forgiveness - is an attempt to arrogate God's work to oneself"
E. Adams, From Forgiven to Forgiving, pp.23-25].
"To refuse to forgive someone else
and then to ask God for forgiveness is a kind of spiritual
schizophrenia. You are asking God to give you what you are unwilling
to give to someone else. A Christian who refuses to forgive, who
chooses to harbor bitterness, who lives in anger and bitterness,
that person is bound to be miserable and messed up. As strange as it
may sound, there is such a thing as an 'unforgiven' Christian. This
is not a statement about ultimate destinies. To be 'unforgiven' in
this sense means that the channel of God's grace is blocked from the
human side. In particular, it means that you have chosen to hang on
to your bitterness and to forfeit your daily walk with the Lord. You
would rather be angry than joyful. You have chosen resentment over
peace. Your grudges have become more important to you than the daily
blessing of God. If God has already forgiven your sins 100% by the
blood of Jesus Christ, how dare you be unforgiving to someone who
hurt you? That's really the issue. How dare you be unforgiving after
what Jesus Christ did for you in the cross?"
Unforgiveness Exploited by the Evil One
"I recently read [something that]
made me think again about the parable of Jesus of the 'certain king'
who had a servant who owed him a vast sum of money [whom] the king
forgave but who refused to forgive his fellow servant. So the king
recalled that servant's salvation and basically sent him to hell.
Yes, satan wants us to coddle unforgiveness and offense... because
it will send us to Hell!!! God is not joking or messing around
with us. Jesus told His disciples again and again that they must not
coddle offense. The Lord's prayer lists it as a primary component of
our daily prayer... to forgive. I now pray every day that if there
be any offense... any offense at all... Please Lord God remove it
from me" [reader's comment at On Being Offensive, and Offended, 06
"One of Satan's strategies to hinder
our personal growth and undermine the growth of God's kingdom is to
encourage and exploit the lack of forgiveness among God's people.
Paul urged the Corinthian believers to forgive one of their members
who had caused hurt. He said that he himself had forgiven the
offender and gave his reason (2 Corinthians 2;11). E.M.
Bounds, in his book, Satan, says: A lofty spirit, ready and
compliant with the spirit of forgiveness, free from all bitterness,
revenge or retaliation, has freed itself from the conditions which
invite Satan and has effectually locked and barred his entrance. The
readiest way to keep Satan out is to keep the spirit of forgiveness
in. The devil is never deeper in hell, nor farther removed from us
than when we can pray, 'Father forgive them; they know not what they
do'." [Dick Tripp, Forgiveness. What It Is and Why It Matters,
"Most men have painful memories of
hurts in the past or memories of things that they did to hurt
others. If they did not respond by forgiving their offenders or by
asking forgiveness for their offenses, they become vulnerable to
Satan's lies, such as 'You are stupid' or 'You'll never amount to
anything' or 'People are out to hurt you.' All these
experiences and the lies that go with them are filed away in the
heart and mind of that young man. In the future, when someone tells
him that he has done something stupid, or he is frustrated, or he
feels like a failure, all the pain and guilt of the past flares up
in anger. We have found that by helping [men] transform these these
painful memories by applying the commands of Christ, they are able
to experience victory over anger, as well as to overcome guilt,
lust, bitterness, greed, fear, and envy"
Sin No More
"How can you forget something negative that's stuck in your mind?
The Bible says God remembers our sins no more; so how can God forget
something when He is omniscient? How can He know everything and
still forget? Here's the thing: When you forgive and forget, the
forgetting means that you, like God, don't hold the wrongdoing to
the offender's account. God forgets that charge against us - He
remembers it no more. Oh, He knows about it, just as you do, but He
will never bring it up again. That's what we are to do. Don't fish
the pond of history; leave it there"
"When our God
forgive us, He promises that He will not remember our sins against
us anymore ... Obviously the omniscient God ... does not forget, but
He can 'not remember'. Forgetting is passive ... 'Not remembering'
is active; it is a promise whereby one person ... determines not to
remember the sins of another against him. To 'not
remember' is simply a graphic way of saying, 'I will not bring up
these matters to you or others in the future. I will bury them and
not exhume the bones to beat you over the head with them. I will
never use these sins against you'."
[Jay E. Adams, From Forgiven
to Forgiving, p.12].
"Some people can go back and reel off in chronological order
everything that a person has done against them during their entire
relationship. If you forgive a person, forget their offences and
never bring them up again. Don't dwell in the past and don't let the
past dwell in you"
"If you go back
and listen to my sermon tapes on forgiveness from a few years ago,
you will hear me say something like, 'If you haven't forgotten, you
haven't forgiven.' I'm smiling as I write these words because
that statement is so obviously wrong I wonder what made me ever
think that way. We all understand that God 'forgets'; our sins when
he blots them out, puts them behind his back, and casts them into
the depth of the sea. He can 'forget' our sins because he's God and
has the power to do things like that. But we're not God, and our
painful memories often return to haunt us. In pondering this
problem, my mind ran to a scripture in the book of Hebrews that
speaks of God's forgiveness of our sins. Surely if we have trouble
forgetting, what about God who never forgets anything? Hebrews 10:17
quotes God as saying, 'Their sins and their lawless acts I will
remember no more.' Underline that last phrase, 'I will
remember no more.' God's forgiveness means he chooses not to
remember our sins" [source].
"Forgiveness is a
choice we make. It is not a feeling or a mood or a passing notion.
Forgiveness does not mean we somehow wipe out of our mind the record
of what happened. Forgiveness means we choose not to remember it.
There is a big difference between remembering something and dwelling
on it. We can all remember (if we try hard enough) things in the
past that have hurt us deeply. Forgiveness means we choose not to
dwell on those things. It also means we choose not to hold a grudge
against someone who has wrong us"
founder of the Red Cross, was talking with a friend one day when the
name of a person they both knew came up. Years before, that person
had done some very mean things to Clara. The friend asked Barton,
'Don't you remember when she did that to you?' 'No', she
replied, 'I distinctly remember forgetting that'."
"Love lets the past die, it moves
people to a new beginning without settling the past. Love does not
have to clear up all the misunderstandings... Love prefers to tuck
all the loose ends of past rights and wrongs in the bosom of
forgiveness - and pushes us into a new start"
thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?
But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared
ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you
if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father
forgive your trespasses
Thus saith the LORD,
Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask
for the old paths, where is the good way,
and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls
note that the inclusion of any quotation or item on this page does not
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