What is Forgiveness?

Recently, in RBC Ministries’ office in UK, we all completed something called a DiSC survey. Through answering a series of questions, we discovered our personality types—Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. The aim of such an exercise is to help us understand the way we work and how we can best relate to others with different personality types. The desire is that an increase in self-knowledge will facilitate better teamwork and minimize team conflict.

That makes a lot of sense because when we work together, personality clashes are inevitable. Just think about it: Have you ever rubbed up against someone? Has someone ever rubbed up against you? Do you feel that quite often you need to say sorry to people? When we relate with people, conflict of one kind or another is unavoidable. It is bound to happen because of our fallen nature. This is why we need to take to heart God’s Word in 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.”

So, what is forgiveness? It is cancelling a debt and releasing someone from a payment that they owe us, if they repent. However, we don’t always think of forgiveness in this way—the way that the Bible teaches (Luke 17:3-4).

Jesus says, “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.” (Emphasis added)

We seem to have gotten a different view to forgiveness than what the Bible says.
We see forgiveness as sweeping the matter under the carpet so as to quickly end the conflict and move on, and we think that it is something that requires one person—the one sinned against—to automatically offer forgiveness by dealing with their emotions, and saying “yeah fine.”

When we’ve hurt another, it can be so tempting to play the “you are a Christian” card. For example, “Yeah, I’ve hurt you, but you’re a Christian so you should forgive me, unconditionally.” “I’m not going to repent and say sorry because you’re a Christian and you should forgive me.” “How unchristian of you not to forgive me. You’re supposed to forgive me as God has forgiven you.” But that’s not biblical forgiveness. We forget that God does not forgive without repentance, nor is it required of man to do so. Moreover, the desire outcome of forgiveness is to restore the relationship to its former state. Such a restoration requires the cooperation of both parties.

So, what do we do if the person who offended us did not apologize? Should we harbour bitterness toward them? No, not at all. Jesus tells us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). We ought to be ready to offer forgiveness and to sever the root of bitterness, at all times.

In conclusion, let’s remember that forgiveness is to release people from the debt that they owe us, when they repent. This is how God also forgives us.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9 (emphasis added)

Written by By Sean Tong for YMI

3 replies
  1. james
    james says:

    The story about forgiveness is sincere and truthful. I wish all of us would read such pages and emulate regardless of our faith and religion since it touches humanity.thanks

    • Alex
      Alex says:

      True. But the truth is, based on my experience and on balanced observation, even tenure christians, ministers, and pastors, due to fallen human nature, have a way of playing around with someone that have hurt or offended them. Instead of releasing forgiveness unconditionally, they require something to be done (sarcastically, sort of a pay-back) to the one who offended them. Instead of being the role model of forgiveness, they say one thing and mean the other. I don’t know why this has to be. I mean, we are C H R I S T I A N S, right?

  2. maahi
    maahi says:

    What I’d that person continues to hurt you despite you speaking to them rationally. And what if that person continues to ignore the fact that they are hurting another. I know a person like that, and every day despite trying to forgive and forget the person just drives a screw driver deeper into the wound.


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