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How to Forgive the Unforgivable

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I am passionate about writing spiritual insights and thought-provoking articles and sharing encouragement with people. Be encouraged!


Only the Forgiven Can Forgive

Some of us come to Christ with horrible backgrounds or past experiences. Maybe you grew up in an abusive home where the father beat you. Or you might have experienced emotional abuse from your mother. Some people were molested as children, while others were raped as adults. Many of us have been violated in a physical, emotional, verbal, or financial way by a family member, a friend, or even a stranger. What does a Christian do in such situations if the abuser now seeks forgiveness? How does one forgive something that seems unforgivable?

When we are faced with situations like these, there are biblical truths that can help us. First, we need to know that we cannot forgive anyone until we realize that we ourselves have been forgiven. We cannot forgive others fully in our own human strength. Of course, sometimes people choose to forgive something they deem forgivable. People can naturally decide that something is not a big deal. However, the truest forgiveness, forgiveness in a biblical way for something that really hurt us, cannot be extended to others until we receive it ourselves.

At the same time, we can only receive forgiveness when we understand the nature of sin. We need to understand the enormity of our sin before God. We need to realize the scandalous, hateful nature of sin. We need to know that we deserved to be condemned for our sins. Moreover, we deserved to be condemned for our sins eternally. We can only consider forgiveness when we honestly take into full account what we have been forgiven of.

The truth is that nothing that has ever been done to us, no matter how painful it seems, compares to the enormity of our sin against God. Yet, God chose to forgive us in Christ. When we realize how much we have been forgiven, it becomes easier for us to extend forgiveness to others. Jesus gave an example in the Gospels that put forgiveness in monetary terms. He said that God has forgiven us for a million-dollar debt. Would it then be right for us to hold someone else responsible, want to punish the person, or send them to jail, for a ten-dollar debt they owe us? Of course not. Once we realize how much God has forgiven us, we can freely and fully forgive others. We can forgive because we ourselves are forgiven.

Matthew 6:14-15
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Ephesians 4:32

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.


Forgiveness Is Not Justification

Forgiveness can be a sensitive topic in the Church. It is often so because the word “forgiveness” has been misunderstood. First, it is important to know what forgiveness is not. It is true that some horrendous things have been done to certain people by others. Forgiveness does not mean just for these things. To forgive a wrong does not mean that this wrong was not done to us. To forgive something does not make it excusable. When we forgive, it does not mean that we deny that what was done to us was enormous or hateful.

We can consider our own forgiveness by God. Does the fact that the Lord forgave us mean that we have never sinned? Are we saying that we have done nothing wrong when we receive Christ’s sacrifice? Are we saying that our sin was not enormous? Are we saying that we did not deserve condemnation? Nobody is saying that. What we are saying is that God gave us unimaginable grace in view of our colossal sin. Moreover, God has done that at His own cost. Christ laid down His own life to forgive us for our sins.

So I am not justifying what someone has done to me when I forgive them. I look their sin right in the face and I say, “This sin is enormous. It is worthy of death. However, I forgive this wrong because I have been forgiven.”We take a full account of what has been done to us when we forgive. Then, we choose to release the person who hurt us.

Thinking that forgiveness is justification can be confusing. One can wonder: How can a just God say that sin was OK? How can He justify rape? Murder? Stealing? Betrayal? God does not justify those things. He calls them what they are. Then, He chooses the death of His Son as the price paid for them. The Bible says that the payment for sin is death. God does not justify sin. The reason He can forgive our sins is that Christ died in our place. He also died in the place of the people who sinned against us. The sacrifice of Christ is enough to pay for the sins we committed and the sins that were committed against us. Forgiveness is accepting the sacrifice of Christ as sufficient. It is not justifying sin. Forgiveness is accepting that each sin has been paid for in full by Christ.

Luke 17:1-4
Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves.
“If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”


Forgiveness Does Not Remove Responsibility

Christ said in the Scriptures that temptations will come into this world. However, He also said that it is woe to those through whom they come. We know that since the fall, the world is full of some horrible things. The world is full of sin. Sins are hateful in nature. They are destructive in nature. Sins are selfish in nature. The world is full of such things. The Bible also tells us that sins are sure to come. Yet, the ones who sin are responsible for their actions.

People who commit sinful acts are fully responsible for them. In fact, the Bible says that it would be better for a person to be thrown into the sea with a stone around the neck than to cause someone else to stumble. Think about the persecution that God’s children encounter throughout the world. There are horrible acts that people commit every day against our Christian brothers and sisters. They will pay for these actions unless they repent.

The Bible also tells us that we need to hold a person accountable if they sin against us. We need to rebuke them. We are to forgive them if they repent. There are, however, consequences to someone else’s actions. For example, if a person does something against us that is criminal, law enforcement can get involved. We do not have to feel guilty when this happens. That is not unforgiveness on our part.

Our forgiveness does not free the person from the legal consequences of their actions. God gave the sword to authority figures for a reason. God uses the government to restrain evil in society. We can forgive someone and still allow the system of government to do its work in their lives. We need to release them in our hearts through forgiveness. We should even pray for them. Christ told us to pray for our enemies. We can pray for the will of God to be done in this person’s life.

Forgiveness does not require us to throw away our own wisdom either. If someone steals money from you as a business owner, forgiveness does not mean that you must put this person at the cash register the next day. We can be wise towards such people. We can hear them out and see their attitude about the situation. Then, we can exercise sound judgment in our future dealings with individuals. Our attitude, however, should never be vengeful.

Matthew 5:43-48
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.


Forgiveness Frees Us From Vengeance

Jesus tells us to forgive our brothers if they sin against us. Moreover, He tells us to forgive a person seven times in the same day, if they repent before us. Of course, if a person sins against us again and again and asks for forgiveness, after a while, we start doubting such an individual’s sincerity. However, Jesus tells us to keep forgiving because He raises the standard high. We are obligated to forgive because of how much was forgiven to us.

One of the ways we learn to forgive is by understanding the sovereignty of God over all the events of our lives. Nothing is accidental that happens to us. It does not mean that God approves of everything that happens to us. It does not mean that God smiles over everything that happens to us. We have to acknowledge the reality of evil in this world. Joseph told his brothers, “You meant it for evil.” He did not underestimate the evil done against him. However, the beauty of being loved by God, which is described in the Scripture, is that God is at work in our lives making all things work together for good.

When we love God and are called according to His purpose, God is able to take what is meant against us and use it for His glory and for our eternal good. We need to maintain such a perspective. This will help us to keep our hearts soft even in the face of things that people may do to destroy us. When Joseph forgave his brothers, he said, “Am I in the place of God?” He refused to take vengeance. The Bible tells us that vengeance belongs to God. When we forgive, we acknowledge that. We are not qualified to execute vengeance in various situations. God is.

Matthew 18:21-22
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times


Forgiveness Frees Us From Anger

Jesus said that we are to be like our Heavenly Father. He sends rain on people who are just and unjust. The Lord also makes the sunrise for the evil and the good alike. God is kind to everyone. Forgiveness should happen in our hearts whether people ask us to forgive them or not. Forgiveness is all about our hearts. This is where we are to release the people who hurt us.

After all, we cannot ultimately forgive people for their sins before God. This is their debt to the Heavenly Judge. Only God can forgive people for their sins against Him. We are to release people from our personal vengeance. We cannot harbor bitterness in our hearts. Our attitude towards others should always be redemptive.

In this way, forgiveness is actually empowering. It allows us to take control of what has been done to us, and it empowers us to release the offender. It frees us from our anger and a desire for vengeance. When we forgive, we free not only our offender but also ourselves. We can now walk in freedom from the negative emotions that held our hearts hostage. We are no longer responsible for vengeance. God is. When we forgive, we hand our offender over to God.

When we forgive, we say that the individual no longer owes us anything. What the individual did against us is now a matter for them to settle with God. If the person repents, God will forgive this individual just like He forgave us. Since we no longer owe God for our sins, we cannot hold anyone else as our debtors. Now, it is for God to decide whether to bring vengeance on the person who hurt us. The Bible says that revenge belongs to Him. We can now walk in the freedom that He gave us to forgive and be forgiven.


Bible Verses

Colossians 3:13
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Galatians 6:1
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.

Romans 12:17-19
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, to live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

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This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Marjori