What the Bible Really Says About Forgiveness

Let’s talk about forgiveness. Yup. I’m sure you’re thinking, why that? Any post but that! Sorry, but it has to be done. As Christians, we think we know how forgiveness works. Forgive people and God will forgive you (Matthew 6:15), and keep on forgiving and giving second chances (Luke 17:3-4). Yup, got it.

Wait. What does that last verse say? When I hear most preachers talk about Luke 17, they always make it sound like if someone sins against you a whole bunch of times, you must give them a second chance every single time. Although I’m a firm believer in forgivness, this verse almost sounds like we are supposed to be punching bags for those who want to hurt or abuse us.

That is–until I really read it.

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I think sometimes we listen to other people (even well meaning, Godly people) preach and teach important Bible subjects and we just nod our heads and go along with it without actually studying the word or praying about it. That’s one thing I love about my pastor–he always encourages us to read our Bibles and not just take his word for it.

Now I’m not saying we should abandon all teachings (preachers were given to us from God for a reason), but they can only give us one snapshot of the Bible at a time. It’s up to us to connect the dots with the help of the Holy Spirit. 

Now about that verse on forgiveness:

Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him (Matthew 17:3-4 NKJV).

So forgiveness is not just letting all things slide or becoming a doormat for anyone to hurt you. In fact, it’s not about us at all! It’s about God. Our awesome and powerful God wants us to surrender all of our hurt and offenses to Him. If we’re holding on to pain, grudges, anger, or resentment, then the enemy can easily find a way to latch on to our hearts and suck out all of the joy, peace, and freedom found in Christ. 

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Remember that even though our God is slow to anger and abundant in mercy, He is also a God of justice. Vengeance is His (Romans 12:19), and if we try to get justice and settle every wrong ourselves, we often get into an even bigger mess than before. This does not mean we can’t (or shouldn’t ) protect ourselves from further hurt or abuse. But don’t allow yourself to become closed off to God’s protection and justice. God knows what you need. You don’t have to take care of everything yourself–learn to leave it at the cross. 

If we allow God to release us from the hurtful actions and words of others, then we can fully surrender ourselves to Him so He can love us and lead our lives. Forgiveness is equal to release. Remember this. When you forgive someone, you’re releasing all of that pain and offense to God. You’re also releasing that person to Him.

Now going back to Matthew 17:3

Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.

The Bible clearly says we MUST forgive everyone…when they repent. If people do not apologize for the wrong they’ve done or try to make it right (which is the definition of repentance), then they can’t even receive your forgiveness. Yes, you will be released, but it will do nothing for them. In the cases of people who suffer addictions and strongholds, sometimes the only thing you can do is forgive them in your heart and let them go. Pray for them and be loving, but let God change them.

I don’t know if any of you have seen the new version of Cinderella (which is totally amazing), but throughout the movie Cinderella offers her wicked step-mother mercy and grace. However, no matter how kind Cinderella is, her step-mother refuses to apologize or treat her right.

In the end, when Cinderella goes off to marry the prince, she tells her step-mother that she forgives her. The real big moment of the movie is not this, but what she does next. Cinderella doesn’t come back for more abuse, but she also doesn’t get her step-mother thrown in a dungeon or punished (even though we can all agree that’s what she deserves).

Cinderella has mercy for her step-mother. She even feels bad for her wicked heart, so she removes herself from the abuse and moves on with her new life. Cinderella is a perfect example of forgiving someone who will not repent for the wrong they’ve done. 

Forgiveness isn’t easy, but it’s a choice. And it always frees the one who is forgiving. If the other person repents, it will set him/her free as well. Forgiveness and mercy are gifts from God, through the death of His Son Jesus, and we must learn to accept His forgiveness in our own lives as well.

I hope that this can help you understand that the Bible is the Word of transformation and freedom, and that God wants to free you from the grip of sin and pain. Forgiving is a way to release us from those who’ve done wrong to us, and it can also be the chance to release them and help them change their ways. But don’t take my word for it–read the Bible and let God speak to you. 

Love, Emily <3


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