What Does It Mean to Forgive?

Forgiveness is the act by which we overlook someone’s mistake. In the Bible, the Greek word translated as “forgiveness” literally means “giving up“, as when a person no longer requires repayment of a debt. Jesus used this comparison to teach His disciples to pray “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.” (Luke 11: 4)

Also, in the parable of the merciless slave, Jesus equalized forgiveness with the cancellation of debt (Matthew 18: 23-35).

We forgive others when we have no hard feeling and give up any pretension to receive compensation for the pain caused or loss. The Bible teaches that unselfish love is the basis of true forgiveness – “4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.“(1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

Forgiveness does not mean:

Tolerating evil – Bible condemns those who argue that bad actions are harmless or acceptable. “20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).

Behaving as if nothing happened. God forgave King David’s grave sins, but He didn’t spare him of the consequences of his actions. God even provided for David’s sins to be recorded in the Bible, so they are known even today (2 Samuel 12:9-13).

Allowing others to take advantage of us. Suppose you’ve loaned someone money, but they wasted it and can’t give it back to you as they promised. They are very sorry and apologize. You could choose to forgive them  and even to cancel their debt, but you could also choose to no longer borrow them money. “The wicked borrows and does not pay back, But the righteous is gracious and gives.” (Psalm 37:21).

Forgiving without reason. God does not forgive those who are guilty of sins committed maliciously refusing to admit their mistakes, change their way of action, and apologize to those whom they made to suffer. “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13) Such people who do not repent become the enemies of God, and He does not ask us to forgive those whom He does not forgive.


Never lose faith. Godspeed.
Nathan Shepard

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