Written By: Peter Denby, Jr.

    I would like to look at what we are taught in the Bible about forgiveness. The first place that one should look when looking to study about forgiveness is with the Saviour Himself. Jesus forgave us and those who persecuted Him.

    Matthew 5:7 tells us that we are to be merciful. Since we are told to be merciful we need to determine what mercy is. God's mercy is well described in 2 Peter 3:9 where it says The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Longsuffering to us-ward is talking of His mercy in not ending our invitation to us. Of course the promise (invitation) in itself is the greatest mercy. Romans 3:23 says For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” That is our death sentence BUT God through Christ has been merciful and forgiven us. So if we are Christians (those who are imitators of Christ) then we need to follow the example. As we look at forgiveness we need to remember that forgiveness needs to be permanent. Many times people ‘forgive’ people only to continue to bring up the issue that was ‘forgiven’. Would you like God to be that way? I am glad that He is NOT! Let us go forth and follow the example of our savior, Jesus Christ. According to I Timothy 1:15, Jesus even forgave Saul the killer of Christians (Acts 9:1), “...Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief If Jesus can forgive killers why can't we. The bible tells us in many places that Jesus only forgives us of the spiritual consequences of our sins. We are responsible for the physical and all other consequences of our sin. in Luke 23:39-43 Jesus tells the thief who rebuked the other thief that he would be with Jesus in paradise. Notice that the thief would be with Jesus in paradise thus he had to die on the cross (suffer punishment for his crime). Lately there has been some question concerning whether it is right for students to post signs saying they forgive the killer of fellow students the day after the killings. I feel that the Bible tells us that we are to forgive them under these circumstances:

1) They ask for forgiveness; AND

2) They say that they are willing to repent of their ways;

(I believe we have no scriptural reason to ask to see fruits of their repentance prior to forgiveness.)

    In the situation above I do not believe that the killer followed either step. More importantly is this: If he did, would you be willing to forgive him? If he killed a love one of yours? Saul killed many of Christ's loved ones and yet Christ forgave him. It might be good too if we took the same basic course as Christ. Teaching them the true way through Jesus Christ. While the Bible does not use the word forgiveness in the following verse, it teaches the same. In Matthew 28:19-20 we are to Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world”. We can not forgive their sins BUT we can lead them to the one who can. We are commanded to teach the greatest forgiveness. We also need to remember that if Jesus forgives them, we MUST also.

    Many people discuss Matthew 7:1 with this subject. My understanding of this verse is that judge means condemn. Condemnation is God's job. We should not want that on our conscience. If we properly follow the pattern set forth earlier, then we shall be able to ‘police the church’ as God would have us to do and still have forgiveness without condemnation.

    We are told to love our enemy. Who is our enemy? Anybody who has wronged us could be considered our enemy. Those who work against us and the Word of God are enemies. They are also souls, some of which are lost. It is possible that our forgiveness will help them in their decision to follow Jesus. It did with Saul (Paul).
We are told to go and settle our differences prior to giving our offering to God.

    Matthew 5:9 tells us that we are to be peace makers. What kind of peacemaker are we if we do not forgive? We keep the bad feeling growing. God tells us often in His word that we need to go and get our problems with other straightened out prior to coming to Him, or going to bed. Not forgiving can end up eating away at your insides.