Forgiveness is a huge part of the Christian life. We either ask for forgiveness daily, or we give it to those who ask us for mercy. There are many questions surrounding this area of forgiveness. Some of which are, ‘How many times should we forgive a person?’ How many times does God forgive us? Is there a limit to how bad of a sin it is, that it is just unforgivable? Many questions such as these can be quite difficult to answer or to face the answer. We will look at all of these aspects as well as how God views this crucial topic of our faith.
First off, forgiveness is made possible by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 1:7 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” Who is the “him” mentioned here though? Back up a bit to verse 5 and you’ll see who. Christ. By his shed blood on the cross we have that forgiveness of our transgressions, because without it, we would be lost. Unlike the old law with the sacrifices and offerings, Christ doesn’t just cover the sin up. It is completely gone. When we repent honestly and wholeheartedly, and ask for forgiveness, it is completely removed from us. God has no recollection of that sin, it’s gone and forgotten. David was key on this in his Psalms, for example Psalm 51:1, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your loving-kindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.” They are blotted out. He also mentions it in Psalm 103:11-12.
Now that we know why we and how we have forgiveness, we should know that we ought to forgive others just as Christ forgave us. Ephesians 4:32 tells us, “And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” So now the questions arises: How many times are we to forgive someone? The greatest example we have of this in Scripture is the conversation between Peter and Jesus. In Matthew 18:21-22 it reads, “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” What Jesus was trying to tell Peter was that there is no limit to your forgiveness unto others. You forgive somebody however many times they repent and ask you for forgiveness. Here we see holding grudges and keeping track of sins is not acceptable either. But what about if they don’t ask for forgiveness? What if they have no comprehension of what they did? Well the answer is simple, forgive them. We see this with Jesus on the cross when he forgave all those who were crucifying him, even though they didn’t ask for mercy. (Luke 23:33-34) This is the greatest example of love that Jesus shows because he forgave those who were beating and crucifying him, even while they were hurling insults at him. How tough that must have been? But that’s how much compassion he has.
Let’s look at Luke 17:3. “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” If we forgive someone we shouldn’t just forgive and forget. That’s a common thought among people to just “forgive and forget”. Now it’s not necessarily a bad thing to do that, but we should do more to help that person. We should tell them exactly what they did to us that was wrong, but do it with love and gentle kindness. If we don’t, how else will that person learn? Remember also that we cannot come off as judgmental toward that person because we have our own faults too. When we ask for forgiveness from God, pray also that he will help you become stronger, and will help you work on the sins you commit. Because if we ask for forgiveness and don’t care about fixing the problem, what good is it to us? We will keep committing the same sin over and over again and ask God for forgiveness, and that’s not how it works. Romans 14:12 says, “So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.” Here Paul is talking about the day of judgement. And when we are there we will “give an account” or “held responsible” for the things we have done. We need to fix those things which are standing in our way of perfection. Now, we will never reach perfection. But as long as we try our hardest and give it all we have, we will be rewarded in the next life to come.
Our forgiving of others, determines God’s forgiveness of us. Matthew 6:14-15, “Your heavenly Father will forgive you if you forgive those who sin against you; but if you refuse to forgive them, He will not forgive you.” If we are not willing to forgive others, our Father won’t forgive us. Jesus also says that he will never cast anyone out that comes to Him. It’s a selfish act to want mercy and not give it, and the Father looks down upon that. But we should know that God is always willing to forgive us. (1 John 1:9) He is always faithful to us, we may forsake Him, but he will never forsake us. And that is a promise we should stand firm on.
We know that we should forgive others, while at the same time God forgives us. And it is according to God’s grace that he allowed this to happen through the sacrifice of his son. What a powerful and precious thing that is. According to Colossians 2:13-14, we are made alive with him. “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”- Colossians 2:13-14.