Forgiveness is a tough thing. The times we need to forgive are usually the times we are in no mood to forgive. It can be easy to say, “I forgive you,” but are those words reflected in my thoughts, emotions and actions? Do I say those words out of mere obligation or to just end an uncomfortable exchange? What does it mean to forgive someone anyway? Does my forgiving someone who wronged me release them from the consequences of the wrong? Is it supposed to make life go on as if the wrong never happened? Am I still obligated to forgive if the person who wronged me doesn’t care about being forgiven? So many questions that can only be answered by understanding how the Bible defines forgiveness.
What does it really mean?
To “forgive” can mean several different things, even in the Bible. The most dramatic biblical definition of forgiveness is that of granting freedom or a pardon. Someone has broken a law and they are legally pardoned. This means they are no longer liable to the consequences of their crime and they can walk free. In the New Testament, this particular word for forgiveness is only and appropriately applied to Jesus’ sacrifice. Adam sinned and we are all born into that sin and live lives guilty of that inherited sin. Jesus came and gave his perfect life in exchange for Adam’s and made a pardon available to us through that gift.
In Scripture, when we “forgive” others, we are not pardoning anything. Another word for "forgive" in the New Testament has to do with sending something away from you. While the meaning here is not as dramatic as freedom or pardoning, it is still a formidable task. Think about an experience you have had where someone wronged you. Think about the physical pain, or the trauma, or the emotional upset, or the ripple effects they caused. Now imagine yourself pushing those things away from you so they are no longer relevant. Go ahead, close the door on them! This little exercise probably didn’t get you very far, did it. Why? Forgiveness is hard, that’s why.
To forgive - to truly send the unrest someone’s wrong has caused you away - takes more than an impulse or a thought. It requires a serious commitment to living a forgiving life. Jesus showed us how difficult a forgiving life can be when Peter asked him if forgiving his brother seven times in a day was enough. His answer was no, forgive seventy times seven! I hope you are not counting!
Check out our August 9,2021 podcast, “Did I Really Forgive Them?” for more. Jesus told us we need to be forgiving in order to be his followers. We isolate the meaning and challenges of truly forgiving someone. We walk through the steps and thinking needed to be forgiving. Finally, we focus in on the benefits of such a decision. Join us as we tackle what can be a difficult but profoundly positive and life-changing experience. This is absolutely a journey worth taking!