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What is Forgiveness?

“The action or process of forgiving or being forgiven.” 

Let’s expand that a little; what is the true definition of forgiveness? 

Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness... Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offences. 

Forgiveness is at the core of believe, repent, obey; why do I say that? 

As shame holds the door open to feelings of guilt, anxiety, pride; Forgiveness closes the door. 

There are many reasons for this, let us consider the physical, mental and psychological benefits of forgiveness:

1: When we forgive, we break the cycle of dysfunction that may have been going on for generations within a family.
Think about it. Where do we learn to be angry, distant, indifferent, and resentful? When the adults in our life model this kind of behaviour to us, we take it for granted that we have the capacity to make different choices. 
In learning to be more forgiving, open and compassionate; we pass these behaviours on to the next generation. When enough people do this, they model a way of being that contributes to both inner and outer peace. 

2: We are less susceptible to fear because we have learned to trust ourselves.
When we approach life with the many filters we put on to protect ourselves from harm, we make seeing the world clearly impossible. When we misinterpret what is happening around us, it’s really hard to make good choices. When we can’t make the best choices for ourselves, we doubt our ability to navigate life’s complexities. 
Forgiveness removes those filters that keep us from seeing reality. When we can finally see things as they are, we are able to respond to life in ways that are more beneficial and that serve us. We find the unshakeable foundation we have always sought, right in ourselves.

3: We transform our intimate relationships with others.
When we forgive, we are open; we no longer have the need to defend ourselves. We cultivate more trusting relationships that are built on unconditional acceptance of ourselves and each other.
Our empathy and emotional intelligence draw more trust and goodwill from others, in return.

4: We experience greater self-compassion and connection to ourselves.
You are probably already aware that most of us are not very kind to ourselves. The benefit of forgiveness is that it lets us lovingly and neutrally observe our behaviour, from a place of care rather than judgment.
Instead of berating ourselves, we leave space for actual transformation. This is the power of self-compassion, and it cannot be underestimated.

5: We discover a more optimistic and positive outlook.
Think of how good it is to have something to look forward to. Think of how much better it feels when that “something to look forward to” isn’t dependent on anything except our own willingness and ability to find the blessings, even in moments of pain and difficulty.
Forgiveness frees us from the burden of believing that our life should have been different, or that we are deficient or damaged. That makes it easier to stay present to the beauty that abounds, all around us.

There are tons of tangible physical benefits! Forgiveness can lead to:

  • Healthier relationships. 
  • Improved mental health. 
  • Less anxiety, stress and hostility. 
  • Lower blood pressure. 
  • Fewer symptoms of depression. 
  • A stronger immune system. 
  • Improved heart health. 
  • Improved self-esteem. 

I am not making this stuff up; you can look up any number of research papers that have real hard evidence of the benefits of forgiveness.

Physically, mentally and of course there are untold spiritual benefits. 

Before we look at the spiritual benefits lets get something clear, a fundamental teaching of Cornerstone is that recovery is a three legged stool; physical, mental and spiritual. If any one leg is missing the stool will topple. 

Soul recovery or restoration in Christ is no different; there is no one alive who is just physical, purely spiritual or completely psychological. 

There is no healthy way of living that does not embrace all three, no matter what you believe or what you’ve read; this is the truth of our existence. 

So when I hear things like:

  • “I like to keep my spiritual life separate from my work life” 
  • “Your faith is a private thing, you shouldn’t tell others” 

It drives me crazy that even Christians talk like this, people who really should know better.

Our reality in Christ should be that there is only life; Christ teaching permeating through every area of our lives.

This is how and why forgiveness is important; this is why God in the Old and New Testament made it a central pillar of following Him. Forgiveness restores us to Him, restores us to others and restores us to good physical, mental and spiritual health. 

It is so important that the prayer Jesus taught us to recite has it in its core!

'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name. 
Your kingdom come, 
your will be done 
, on earth as it is in heaven. 
Give us this day our daily bread, 
and forgive us our debts, 
as we also have forgiven our debtors. 
And lead us not into temptation, 
but deliver us from the evil one.'" 
Luke 11:2–4

In the middle of this prayer repeated by and wrote by Christians everywhere is this line:

“and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” 

This is one very good reason as to why Christians should never recite anything without actually knowing and then meaning what it is they are reciting. 

We are asking or making a statement that God should forgive us as we have forgiven others. 

Or to read that differently: Forgive us as much as we have forgiven others

Let me ask this question; have you forgiven?

Have you forgiven yourself and those that have wronged you?

Some things are harder to forgive, I understand that; but have you or are taking it to the Lord asking him to help you forgive? 

Are you picking up your cross daily in this area?

If you are not I want to point out here in our joint prayer, the one Jesus asks us to pray; we are making a promise and making a bold statement. 

We are clearly promising to forgive and we are sealing that with the statement: 

“as we also have forgiven our debtors” 

This is not the only place this is said:

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."
Luke 6:37 

  "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." 
Matthew 6: 14-15

This cannot be clearer, we are commanded to forgive; in fact the security of our forgiveness relies on it.

Why is it so important to God? Well for all the benefits I’ve listed above God wants the best for us, also because it is the nature of God to forgive. 

We are nothing like God; physically, emotionally, mentally, sexually. There is nothing, not one thing about us that is like GOD; He is Holy, beyond our comprehension. Yet the Bible tells us we are made in His image, how is that possible? 

We are made in His image as to our function; we were made to be His eyes, ears, hands and feet on Earth. We were made to rule this Earth under God’s rule. We are, in our function, made in His image. 

If we are to meet this command of God we must reflect His character, which is one of forgiveness and love. 

 Forgiveness brings us into relationship with God in a completely new and far deeper way. 

This is how forgiveness closes the door:

  • When we believe in His Word and trust in His promises 
  • When we repent of our sins as well as our unbelief 
  • When we obey His command to love even our enemies 

Then we live in forgiveness, we live in its benefits and share those with others.

  1. Forgiving ourselves and others - shuts the door to shame. 
  2. We cannot be put to shame if we are in Christ - shuts the door to fear. 
  3. Perfect love drives out fear when we are in Christ - shuts the door to guilt. 
  4. We are a new being in Christ; the old sins/crimes are dead - shuts the door to pride 

We cannot submit to God’s will and follow His teaching if we are holding onto our own.

Forgiveness is the key to truly being free, to:

  • Believing 
  • Repenting 
  • Obeying 

Just to show just how important forgiveness is here is a list of verses, not exhaustive but enough for you to see how important forgiveness is to God.

"The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving,
even though we have rebelled against him."
Daniel 9:9 
“I, even I, am He who blots out
your transgressions, for my own sake,
and remembers your sins no more ..."
Isaiah 43:25
“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says the Lord. 'Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.'"
Isaiah 1: 18
"Who is a God like you, 
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea."
Micah 7:18-19  
 “Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” 
Hebrews 10:17 
“For I will forgive their wickedness 
and will remember their sins no more."
Jeremiah 31: 34

Notice that all of the above are in the Old Testament! What can we say about Jesus’ forgiveness?

Jesus gives us the perfect example of forgiveness. While in agony on the cross, Jesus called out, exclaiming:

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Luke 23:34

Wonder how many times the Bible calls us to forgive?

Jesus asks us to model our forgiveness of others on the way God has forgiven us, forgiving “not by seven times, but seventy times seven.”

Realistically you wouldn’t say “I have forgiven Dave 483 times, I will only forgive him another 7 times...” 

Jesus didn’t expect us to keep a tally and when we exceeded 490 we wouldn’t have to forgive anymore. He expects us to forgive unconditionally. 

If its conditional, it’s not true forgiveness...

When Jesus saw their faith, he said, 'Friend, your sins are forgiven.'”
Luke 5: 20 
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven." 
Luke 6:37
"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.'" 
Matthew 18: 21-22

"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."
Matthew 6: 14-15

We cannot follow God without being
forgiven and forgiving others;
this is why it is the answer.

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