How far should I go to forgive someone?

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By BibleAsk Team


Forgiveness lies at the heart of Christian ethics, embodying the transformative power of grace and reconciliation. As followers of Christ, Christians are called to extend pardon freely and unconditionally, reflecting the boundless mercy and love of God. In this exploration, we delve into the biblical teachings on forgiveness, drawing upon references from the Bible and considering the depth and breadth of forgiveness in the Christian life.

The Divine Model of Forgiveness:

At the core of Christian faith is the belief in God’s unfathomable capacity to pardon sins and reconcile humanity to Himself. The sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross exemplifies the ultimate act of pardon, offering redemption and reconciliation to all who repent and believe. Pardoning, on the part either of God or of man, is much more than a judicial act; it is a restoration of peace where there had been conflict (Romans 5:1). And it is even more than that—it includes the effort to save the erring brother himself. 

References:

  • Ephesians 1:7 (NKJV) – “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”
  • Colossians 1:13-14 (NKJV) – “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”

Forgiving Others as God Forgives Us:

Jesus teaches his disciples to forgive others as they themselves have been forgiven by God. The parable of the unforgiving servant illustrates the importance of extending mercy and compassion to others, reflecting the boundless forgiveness received from God.

Jesus also says, “Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you” (Luke 6:27). And when He died on the cross, He said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots” (Luke 23:34). He meant this for the people who were still driving the nails into His innocent hands.

References:

  • Matthew 6:14-15 (NKJV) – “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
  • Matthew 18:21-22 (NKJV) – “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.'”

Forgiveness as a Command and a Choice:

Forgiveness is not merely a suggestion but a commandment given by Jesus Christ. Christians are called to forgive others unconditionally, regardless of the magnitude or frequency of offenses, as an expression of obedience to God’s will and a manifestation of His love.

References:

  • Luke 6:37 (NKJV) – “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
  • Colossians 3:13 (NKJV) – “bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”

Extending Forgiveness Without Limit:

The call to forgive others without limit echoes the boundless mercy and compassion of God. Christians are urged to emulate the extravagant forgiveness demonstrated by God in their relationships with others, extending grace and reconciliation even in the face of repeated or grievous offenses.

The believer should forgive no matter how the offending party responds to efforts of reconciliation. For while we were yet sinners, Christ provided forgiveness for us. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Jesus didn’t wait until we were receptive or responsive to Him to forgive us.

However, this does not mean that we need to endlessly submit to abusive behavior. It is OK to forgive a person and still affirm that you cannot associate with him/her when there is abuse.

References:

  • Matthew 18:21-22 (NKJV) – “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.'”
  • Luke 17:3-4 (NKJV) – “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.”

The Healing Power of Forgiveness:

Forgiveness is not only a moral imperative but also a source of healing and restoration for both the forgiven and the forgiver. By releasing resentment and bitterness, individuals experience emotional, spiritual, and relational healing, allowing them to move forward in freedom and wholeness.

Paul admonishes the believers, “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:20, 21). Paul affirms that you are casting coals of fire on their head when you’re doing kindness for those being unkind to you. Showing love often initiates love.

References:

  • James 5:16 (NKJV) – “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
  • Matthew 6:12 (NKJV) – “And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.”

Conclusion: Embracing the Call to Forgiveness:

In conclusion, the biblical teachings on forgiveness challenge Christians to embrace the radical call to extend forgiveness without limit, mirroring the boundless mercy and love of God. Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness but a testament to the transformative power of grace, offering healing, reconciliation, and freedom to both the forgiven and the forgiver. As followers of Christ, may we embody the spirit of forgiveness in all our relationships, reflecting the transformative power of God’s love in the world.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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