What does the Bible say about unforgiveness?


By BibleAsk Team

What does the Bible say about unforgiveness?

The Bible underscores the importance of forgiveness, teaching that unforgiveness can hinder one’s relationship with God and others. In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus emphasizes that forgiving others is essential for receiving God’s forgiveness. Ephesians 4:31-32 urges believers to “get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger” and instead be “kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” The parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35 further illustrates the consequences of withholding forgiveness, highlighting that God expects believers to extend the same grace and mercy they have received.


Unforgiveness is a powerful and pervasive force that can affect individuals and communities alike. The Bible, as a foundational guide for Christian living, addresses the concept of forgiveness extensively. In this article, we briefly look into what the Bible has to say about unforgiveness, examining key passages that shed light on the consequences of harboring resentment and the transformative power of forgiveness.

The Call to Forgive

One of the fundamental teachings on forgiveness can be found in the Lord’s Prayer, where Jesus instructs his disciples in 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.” This passage underscores the reciprocal nature of forgiveness, emphasizing that our willingness to forgive is intimately connected to God’s forgiveness of our own sins.

Unforgiveness as a Spiritual Blockage

Hebrews 12:14-15 (NKJV) warns against the detrimental effects of unforgiveness on one’s spiritual well-being: “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.” This vivid metaphor of a “root of bitterness” highlights the way unforgiveness can take root and spread, causing harm not only to the individual harboring resentment but to those around them.

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

In Matthew 18:21-35 (NKJV), Jesus shares the parable of the unforgiving servant, illustrating the magnitude of God’s forgiveness and the expectation for believers to extend the same grace to others. The story concludes with a powerful message in verse 35: “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” This parable emphasizes the importance of a genuine, heart-based forgiveness.

Forgiveness and Reconciliation

The Bible encourages not only forgiveness but also reconciliation. In Matthew 5:23-24 (NKJV), Jesus teaches, “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” This passage highlights the proactive role believers should take in resolving conflicts and seeking reconciliation.

Forgiving Seventy Times Seven

In response to Peter’s question about forgiveness in Matthew 18:21-22 (NKJV), Jesus replies, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” This statement underscores the limitless nature of forgiveness, challenging believers to extend grace and mercy repeatedly. It echoes the boundless forgiveness God offers to humanity.

Overcoming Evil with Good

Romans 12:17-21 (NKJV) provides a comprehensive guide on responding to wrongdoing: “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” This passage encourages believers to break the cycle of vengeance and animosity, promoting forgiveness as a powerful means to overcome evil.

Forgiveness and Healing

In James 5:16 (NKJV), believers are urged to confess their trespasses to one another and pray for each other, emphasizing the healing power of forgiveness: “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.” This verse underscores the connection between forgiveness, confession, and spiritual, physical and emotional healing.


The Bible, through various passages, provides profound insights into the nature and consequences of unforgiveness. From the Lord’s Prayer to parables and teachings of Jesus, the Scriptures consistently advocate for forgiveness as a transformative and liberating force. As believers, embracing the biblical principles of forgiveness not only aligns us with God’s mercy but also fosters peace, reconciliation, and spiritual well-being in our relationships and communities.

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