What the Bible taught me about forgiveness
I’ll be honest with you: this is like the fifth
draft of this opening paragraph. I had to stifle a laugh when my editor asked
me to write something on forgiveness. I’ve never been the type. I’m the kind of
person that just . . . remembers things. Two, five, fifteen years later. I can’t help it. It’s easy to get lost in my
head and just become, well, stuck. It’s not healthy, and it’s not productive. I
get it. I also get that I might be letting emotions bias my memories (it’s
easier to always think of yourself as the hero and not the villain in your own
story). So, I know something has to give. Or forgive, rather.
I guess the most important question is why. Why go through all this trouble of
learning any of this at all? I am who I am and I survived this long, right?
The answer is time.
There isn’t enough time. And if you aren’t paying attention, time will
Living with regret.
My grandmother passed away last year. She was in
Houston, Texas, and I was on a work assignment in Sacramento. I remember having
to slink out into the hallway as my mom told me the news. The unreality of the
whole thing sunk in—all the memories I had of my grandmother colliding into one
specific moment: Her telling me over a video call that I was a terrible
grandson. That I didn’t make enough time for her. She wasn’t wrong. And I’ll
never be able to tell her how sorry I am.
Anyone can cherry-pick quotes from inspirational
Instagrams, social media sites, and the occasional fortune cookie, but as
Christians, we can always turn to the Bible for guidance and its stance
on issues we face in our lives every day.
So here’s what I have learned about forgiveness
from the Bible.
What forgiveness is and isn’t.
It’s a common joke among my friends that I have
the personality of a robot: cold, hyper-logical, constantly analyzing every
situation. I kind of laugh about it now, but that line of thinking led to a
struggle with the concept of “deservedness.”
Who deserves my kindness? Who is
worthy of my mercy?
Those questions read like platitudes from a
certain TV show about thrones and dragons but don’t have a place in real life.
In real life, forgiveness is not a measure of weakness. It can exist in the
presence of justice or injustice. Forgiveness is a measure of compassion, of
love. An often-quoted passage, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NKJV, says:
I’ve often heard this Bible verse in the context
of marriage and relationships, but when I started
working on this blog, the minister brought up this verse and explained that
real forgiveness can’t be done without the presence of real love. It’s an
indicator that both parties understand that the necessary solution,
reconciliation, is greater than whatever problem or issue that they are facing
guidance from the Bible.
Forgiveness is something everyone needs, and
something everyone needs to be able to do. Adults, parents, teenagers, even kids.
It’s very easy to make assumptions about a person who’s wronged us and make
assumptions about people whom we have wronged.
Many of us do this automatically, instinctually
even: “It’s obvious that she’s jealous,” or, “Of course, he would do that, he’s
so-and-so. I’m not like that.” Don’t
be quick to blame the person instead of understanding the situation. There’s an
example of our Lord Jesus Christ being asked by a group of people if the Law of
Moses regarding stoning an adulterer should be applied in the case of a guilty
woman who was brought before Him. Christ replied that the one with no sin
should throw the first stone.
When I heard Matthew 6:14-15, it pretty much
summed it up for me.
“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
If you aren’t prepared to forgive others for
things done against you, God sees that. He might decide you aren’t ready to
receive forgiveness either.
The Bible on conflict resolution.
It’s normal for people to feel angry
at times, but it is wrong
to act on one’s anger in untoward ways, including letting it poison your heart
and your feelings. Ephesians 4:26 tells us,“‘Be angry and do not sin’: do not
let the sun go down on your wrath.” When I first heard this passage, I thought
that’s easier said than done. But you quickly discover that if you truly love
God, it’s not hard to do at all.
Problems are complex and there can be a lot that
you have to work through. Life requires communication, compassion, and
compromise. People might wrong you, and you might wrong them. But I’ve learned
that it’s important to not fall into a cycle of anger and revenge. Even if it
means being careful with your words. When I can’t figure out what else to say,
I just tell them, “I hope you find what you’re looking for.”
The Bible outlines a whole process for conflict
resolution in Matthew 18:15-17, something I understood early on growing up in a
brother sins against you, go to him and show him his fault. But do it
privately, just between yourselves. If he listens to you, you have won your
brother back. But if he will not listen to you, take one or two other persons
with you, so that ‘every accusation may be upheld by the testimony of two or
more witnesses,’ as the scripture says. And if he will not listen to them, then
tell the whole thing to the church. Finally, if he will not listen to the
church, treat him as though he were a pagan or a tax collector.”
Road to forgiveness.
I’ve learned that the key point of conflict
resolution is having clear communication, and clear steps to take if the matter
can’t be resolved quickly. The first thing to do is to try and talk to the
person directly and hope you can come to an agreement. If that doesn’t work,
bring witnesses that can note what arguments are being said. The last step is
to take it to the Church elders and see if they can help solve the case.
Sometimes things don’t work out, and the Bible
says to treat people who behave like that as if they were a pagan or a tax
collector. I might need clarification on the whole ‘tax collector’ thing, but
regarding someone as a pagan, or someone who isn’t a true servant of God, speaks to the severity of the
Learning to forgive
I have to talk about one more thing. Some days, I
look into the mirror and just want to yell at the guy looking back at me. A
part of it is anger, some of it is sadness. Past memories blur into present
issues, things I’ve done that I will never have the opportunity to apologize
for. Guilt can wear and weigh us down, and it keeps us from living the best we
Forgiveness is a process.
I guess the major takeaway is that forgiveness is
a process. At first, it can be hard.” Like, really
hard. But it gets easier every time you do it. Forgiveness requires
humility when you ask for it, and kindness when you give it, and every step
must be earned and made in good faith. God forgives, and He shouldn’t expect
any less of us.
The Bible has a lot to say about what it means to
live like true Christian and how to deal with common
problems you might already be facing. Or if you have specific
questions about the Bible you’d like to discuss, let’s set up some time to
blog was co-written by Daniel Quitalig with biblical support by Joe Velasquez,
a Minister of the Gospel of the Church Of Christ.
is a staff writer at INCmedia.org.
Though a writer, he spent his first year at incmedia composing original
music for the Centennial Series, a 12-part documentary about the growth of the
Church Of Christ.
Velasquez has been an ordained minister in the Church Of Christ (Iglesia Ni
Cristo) for five years.