What Does It Mean To Forgive?

I think I might have been a pretty mean little kid. We were watching some old home video a while back from when I was about 2 and Alex was just learning to sit up and crawl around.

In the video, Alex is sitting up, peacefully playing with his toys. He had two or three blocks that he would wave up and down to the camera, babbling here and there as he played.

I then ramrod into the scene and yank his toy away from him.

Who was this kid and why was he getting all the attention?!

I then scooted to the side and began to belt out my ABCs, showing how smart I was.

After all, how many 2 year olds know their ABCs?

So ever since then (and even before), I have needed forgiveness.

Over and over my parents have taught me to seek forgiveness from those I have wronged.

So I would say the words, ask the question, but I never really understood what I was asking for.

I would feel relieved when someone said that they would forgive me. It seemed like they were saying that it was okay. They would forget about it.

And I knew they wouldn’t really forget about it, but in a way, they wouldn’t hold it against me. I could start again with a clean slate.

As I get older, forgiving other people has become hard because I don’t know exactly what I am supposed to do. How do I treat a person that has wronged me? Am I essentially saying “It’s okay?” or am I telling the other person that I will forget that they hurt me? I’m not sure. I just say the words, and move on.

I have been wondering lately what exactly forgiveness is. What does God mean when He says He forgives our sins?

It’s seems like there are two different definitions in my mind. There is the type of forgiveness that I want from Christ and others, then there is the type of forgiveness that I want to give when I am wronged.

When I ask myself what it means when Christ forgives me, I would say that it means that He washes away my sins. I am not stained with guilt anymore. I am covered by Jesus’ blood. He paid my sins and I am now pure in Him. He forgets my wrongs. It’s like it never happened.

When a person says that they forgive me, I want it to mean that they are not going to judge me by my actions. I want them to forget that I ever treated them wrongly. I want to start over with and continue our relationship like nothing ever happened.

But then, when the tables are turned and I am the one wronged, I don’t want to “forgive”. I don’t want to forget, I don’t want to say that everything is okay. I want to get away with giving a small amount of forgiveness. I won’t mention it to your face again, but I want to remember. I want to hold it against you.

But the Bible says that we are to forgive, when I ask myself what it means when I say that I forgive someone, my definition is stingy. When I say I forgive someone, I mean that I am over it. Whatever it was doesn’t bother me anymore. Or, if it does still bother me, I mean that I am going to work on getting over it. I still might hold it against that person. I might remember their previous actions in the future, but I am not emotionally charged by the wrong anymore.

But even that definition is just so me-centered.

So I started searching for answers.

The smaller the hurt, the easier it is to forgive. The bigger the hurt, the more forgiveness is needed.

Funny how that works.

Ephesian 4:32 says “Be ye kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

What does that as word mean? How do I forgive AS God forgives me?

Well, I’m no Greek scholar, but, it could either mean to forgive others while He forgives us, like, at the same time— quantity. Or it means to forgive others like He forgives us; in the same way—quality.

Really, I think it’s both.

We should forgive while He forgives us. We shouldn’t wait until we feel like forgiving. We need to do it now. God forgives as soon as we repent. It is a comfort to know that He gives grace to the humble. We need to forgive while He forgives us. Constantly, immediately. Don’t hold grudges. He also forgives us endlessly. No matter how many times we mess us, there is not a limited quantity. He always forgives.

We should also forgive like He forgives us. Now, we can’t wash away sins, but we can acknowledge that Jesus’ blood is sufficient to cover any and all sins. When forgiving, we can’t be stingy or hold anything back. We need to forgive completely, entirely, fully. Not partially, but forgiveness of the best quality.

I think when we say we forgive someone, we are acknowledging that God’s power to cleanse is stronger than the pain that we felt. We are saying that even though we were wounded, God’s grace can cover it. His blood is strong enough to wash away the sin that was committed against us and to heal the hurt that we are feeling. To forgive is to give some of the grace and mercy that was given to you. We CAN’T wash away sins, so the only way that we can truly forgive someone is to let the forgiveness that Christ gave to us flow through us because Christ’s forgiveness is the only real forgiveness. And when you realize how much you have been forgiven, it is easier to let some of that forgiveness, grace, and mercy that was given to you flow through you to the people around you.

When we hesitate to forgive, when we hold grudges and say “I just can’t forgive them for this. It hurt me too much.” we are saying that the sin is too big to be forgiven. The hurt is too big to be washed away. Since we are commanded to forgive like Christ forgives us, when we “just can’t forgive” we are saying that the blood that Jesus spilled was not efficacious to pay for the wrong by which we were hurt. We are saying that Christ’s forgiveness and grace that rushes through us isn’t strong enough to forgive the hurt we are feeling. When we do this, we are calling the power of God’s cleansing grace into question.

I think if we all look at it that way, if we get straight to the point, we can see that not forgiving is sin. It’s blasphemous. And then we need forgiveness for not forgiving.

If you have been seriously hurt and don’t feel like you can forgive, ask yourself this question:
Which is stronger: your pain, or Christ’s love? Which is mightier: the sin that was committed against you, or the cleansing power of Christ’s blood?

When you think about it that way, you have to realize that any sin can be forgiven, any way that we have been hurt or wronged can be fixed and even forgotten. Because when we have Jesus and His love, when we have His eternal mercy and grace, no matter what nasty sin has been committed against us, no matter how big the hurt, we can always forgive because Christ can always forgive.

Paul David Tripp puts it this way:

He gives what we never could have earned; why, then, do we turn and refuse to give until others have measured up to whatever standard we hold them to? The call to forgive immediately exposes our need for forgiveness. The call to give grace reveals how much we need grace. The call to forgive is at the very same time a call to remember and be grateful. When you remember how far you fall short, you are tenderhearted toward others who fall short, and you want for them the same grace that is your only hope. May God give us the grace to remember and the willingness to give to others what we have been given.”

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