We all know the passage in Matthew 6:14-15. “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 your trespasses.”

This is a very daunting scripture. Some have experienced horrendous trauma and wrongs against them. We know we have to forgive but what exactly is forgiveness and how are we supposed to go about it?

Is Forgive and Forget Biblical?

Let us first deal with the phrase to forgive and forget. This does not come from the Bible. There is no concept of forgetting a wrong against you. We find the phrase remember no more but this is something different and we will discuss this in part 3. Unless we remove a part of our brains some memories will always be there. Just because we can remember an offence against us does not mean we have not forgiven. This is an impossible standard that God does not require from us. What God requires is a change of heart attitude towards the person and faith in His Word. Before we get into that let us start at the beginning.

What is Forgiveness?

Dictionary.com defines to forgive as the following:

  • to grant pardon for or remission of (an offence, debt, etc.); absolve.
  • to give up all claim on account of; remit (a debt, obligation, etc.).
  • to grant pardon to (a person).
  • to cease to feel resentment against.
  • to cancel an indebtedness or liability of.

What God is looking for from us is, for us to give up the right to vengeance, the right to be repaid for the wrong. We are to release the offender of all debt they owe to us. They do not even need to apologise before we are willing to forgive them. We hand over the right to be repaid to God. Vengeance is His and He will repay.

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for [God’s] wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay (requite), says the Lord.

But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.

Do not let yourself be overcome by evil, but overcome (master) evil with good.

Romans 12:19-21 (AMPC)

If we do not forgive, we let evil overcome us.

Step 1: Address My Heart Before God

The first step in forgiving is to address our hearts before God. His Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. When choosing to obey God’s Word and forgive someone we need to turn to God and His Word first. He provides us with plenty of guidance and instruction.

– God is our model. We are to forgive because He forgave us first.

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32 (NKJV)

Forgive anyone anything!

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

Mark 11:25 (NKJV)

God in His goodness, mercy and loving-kindness has forgiven us everything. If He deems us forgivable who are we to deem someone else unforgivable?

– A basic requirement of following Jesus is to deny ourselves.

And He said to all, If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself] and take up his cross daily and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also].

Luke 9:23 (AMPC)

We choose to give up ourselves for Him. God has promised that vengeance is His and He will repay. We are to put down our rights and give them over to Him.

– Forgive now!

When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down.

Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him].

Ephesians 4:26-27 (AMPC)

The faster we forgive and release the offender the faster we are released. Unforgiveness holds everyone captive and can grow into bitterness and resentment. Once they take hold, they cloud all of life and rob us of the promises God has for has.

Release the offender even if the issue has not been resolved. You might only be able to speak to each other in a few days’ time or even a week later. This does not mean you can hold onto your anger until then. Choose to forgive the offender of their offence even before you get to meet and talk. Your anger will have abated by then and​ A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

– Reach out in love

But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.

Romans 12:20

“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.

Luke 6:27

This appears to be the hard part, but it comes with benefits, real physical benefits. When we show kindness to someone our bodies produce three chemicals. Serotonin causes wounds to heal, calms you down and makes you feel happy. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkiller and are three times more effective than morphine. Oxytocin is a hormone that strengthens the immune system, produces an immediate calming effect, and increases trust and generosity.

Reaching out in love actually heals our bodies and increases the chances of us restoring the relationship that has been broken.

Put it into practice

If you have someone who has wronged you and that wrong still burns in your heart choose today to release them from the debt they owe you, repent before God for your part in the offence and then reach out to them in love. You are promised God’s forgiveness and you will feel a whole lot better.

I know this raises a lot of questions about trust and actually having to face the person again. More on this in Part 2 which is coming soon.