What does the bible say?
Forgiveness is at the heart of the Christian faith with hundreds of scriptures that pertain to this subject. We are going to consider a selection of them. But first let me ask you to consider the cross. The cross gives a good visual aid for looking at the dimensions of forgiveness. The vertical beam signifying our own vertical need for forgiveness which can only come from Father God via Jesus Christ (see Isaiah 53).
The horizontal beam represents firstly our need for forgiveness from other people whom we have wronged, and secondly our own need to forgive others who have wronged us.
Definition Forgiveness  is the mental and/or spiritual process of ceasing to feel resentment, indignation or anger against another person for a perceived offense, difference or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution.
Forgiveness may be considered in terms of the person who forgives, in terms of the person forgiven and/or in terms of the relationship between the forgiver and the person forgiven. In some contexts, forgiveness may be granted without any expectation of apology/compensation, and without any response on the part of the offender (for example, one may forgive a person who is dead). In practical terms, it may be necessary for the offender to offer some form of acknowledgment, apology, and/or restitution, or even just ask for forgiveness, in order for the wronged person to believe they are able to forgive.
Key Biblical texts about forgiveness:
The ‘Lord’s Prayer’- "Forgive us our [debts], as we forgive our [debtors]" (some versions have sin instead of debts, the Anglican Book of Common Prayer uses trespasses instead of debts), see Matthew 6:12.
"Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times (or seventy times seven).' See Matthew 18:21-22.
This brings us to a relevant parable, that of the ‘Unmerciful Servant’, which concludes: "In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." See Matthew 18:34-35 .
Many people today are tormented by guilt, fear , bitterness, and resentment. It is often those closest to us who are involved in actions that generate the need to give or to receive forgiveness.
"And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." See Mark 11:25.
This can be taken to imply that the exercise of forgiveness is part of that repentance through which the believer has access to the forgiveness of God.
"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." See Luke 23:34 as uttered by Jesus Christ as he was put to death.
"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." See Ephesians 4:32.
The Apostle Paul said, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” See Colossians 3:13.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
When God forgives us, he blots out the record-He forgives and forgets!
Further aspects of forgiveness
The Benefits of forgiveness
Psalm 32 The joy of forgiveness
32:1 A Psalm of David, Maschil. Blessed (plural) is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
32:5 I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
The benefits of forgiveness include lovely things such as reconciliation, peace, concord, mutual understanding, restored relationships and renewed fellowship. Forgiveness bears beautiful fruit. Forgiveness may even benefit our health with psychiatrists and other health care professionals now agreeing that restored relationships can affect our health. Failure to forgive produces bad fruit; bitterness, resentment, hatred, and can lead to feuds, vendettas and even wars.
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and therefore we all need forgiveness. Even at our personal best we can still stumble and be capable of wronging people. Forgiveness is part and parcel of our daily Christian lives. It should be a lifestyle.
Yet sometimes it is so difficult to forgive someone!
Forgiving someone is not simply excusing them rather it is having considered the matter and arrived at the conclusion that the person or persons involved did wrong to you or your loved ones and that through the power of God you are going let them completely off the hook!
Who do you ned to forgive today?
See Part 2 which discusses the practice of forgiveness.