The Necessity of Forgiveness

Scripture repeatedly reminds us of the need to forgive one another.

There must be a reason for that!

Even the Lord’s Prayer includes a reminder about the necessity and importance of forgiving one another:

“ . . .and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:12-15, ESV)

Jesus tells us that we must forgive our brother when he sins against us “seventy times seven” times (Matthew 18:22).  That’s a lot of forgiving!

In 1 Corinthians 13, when the apostle Paul wanted to describe and define real love, he included the idea of forgiveness:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5, NIV)

And in two of his other letters, Paul tells us that we not only must forgive one another, but that it also must be in the same manner that the Lord Jesus Christ forgave us:

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:12-13)

All of this adds up to impress upon us the importance of Christians forgiving one another.  It is a key component of the Christian life because it is a key component of Christian love.  And it is a big part of what it means to follow Christ.

Not only that, but it is a reminder that forgiveness will be necessary. In other words, we who are called by the name of Christ are forgiven and justified in Him, but we still sin.  A lot.  And we will sin against one another.  A lot.

Sometimes we will be the one sinned against. Sometimes the shoe will be on the other foot and we will be the offending party.

And when (not so much if) that happens, we must forgive. And we must forgive as Christ has forgiven us.

It is not the presence of sin in the church that necessarily undoes our testimony before a watching world, but the absence of forgiveness and restoration.  Because forgiveness and restoration are both based upon the gospel of Christ as well as reflections of it (John 17:20-23).

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4 comments

  1. I admit that forgiveness is a real necessity in the church. My wife and I are struggling with this very concept against someone close to us in our local body. The question that needs to be asked, however, is what exactly is forgiveness? To often it is minimized to letting someone off the hook or pretending an offense never occurred.

    ‘Someone might say, ‘It’s ok, Sally, don’t worry about it.’

    This is not forgiveness. Jay Adams once said we ought not to minimize someone’s confession of sin. If someone believes that they have sinned and confess it and ask for forgiveness, then it should be granted.

    But if someone is not repentant and begrudges the fact that they have hurt another, forgiveness should NOT be granted. Think of it this way; God granted you forgiveness only after what? Yes, repentance! If someone is not sorrowful for their sin, they should not have forgiveness. Christians should be willing to forgive, but are not required to do so when biblical mandates on this matter have not been fulfilled.

    1. Good question. No easy answer either.

      At bare minimum I think it means that we do not treat the person according to their sins against us.

      I base that upon Psalm 103:10-12

      He does not deal with us according to our sins,
      nor repay us according to our iniquities.
      For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
      so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
      as far as the east is from the west,
      so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

      God does not deal with us according to our sins or repay us according to our iniquities (v.10) because he has removed our sins from us as far as the East is from the West (v.12). We are to forgive others as Christ forgave us (Ephesians 4:32).

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