Courage for life Blog

Forgiveness: A Promise and a Process

May 22, 2024

Forgiveness is a promise from God and a process for you.

When God makes a promise to forgive sin against Him, He is faithful to forgive. God promises the Israelites through the prophet Isaiah that despite their sinfulness against God, He will forgive their sins and never think of their sins again (Isaiah 43:25). This promise to forgive did not remove the consequences of their sin because God still allows them to experience captivity by their enemies (i.e., the Babylonians) which God warned them of this consequence. Still, they ignored His warning and continued to sin against Him. Consequences for sin do not change the promise that God forgives sins.

David also knew the promise of forgiveness from God. David is described as a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22), yet David sinned against God (reference 2 Samuel 11:1-27). However, in Psalm 103, David records God’s promise of forgiveness toward sin.

[David speaking]: He [God] forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. … He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. … He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. Psalm 103: 3-4, 10, 12

God’s promise to forgive extends to all people, not just the Israelites and David. Through the apostle John, God shares the truth that Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection provide God’s forgiveness and cleansing of all sin (1 John 1:7). People who claim they have no sin are only fooling themselves and not living in the truth (1 John 1:8). God promises to forgive sin through confession of sin to Him.

But if we confess our sins to Him [God], He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that His word has no place in our hearts. 1 John 1:9-10

Similarly, the writer of Hebrews declares that God Himself (Jesus) is the final sacrifice for sins, once and for all, and there is no need to offer any more sacrifices to obtain forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 10:12, 18). God promises His forgiveness. Then He [God] says, “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds” (Hebrews 10:17).

The apostle Paul teaches the believers in Jesus in Ephesus and Colossae that God is rich in kindness toward them because of His promise of forgiveness through Jesus.

He [God] is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son [Jesus] and forgave our sins. Ephesians 1:7

For He [God] has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son [Jesus], who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. Colossians 1:13-14

Forgiveness is a promise from God that you receive through faith in Jesus. God’s promise of forgiveness is continuous toward you. It provides freedom for you to embrace the life God intended for you to live with Him. God’s consistent forgiveness of your sin doesn’t negate the reality of your sin but rather magnifies your awareness of your need for God’s promise of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a process for you to extend toward others.

Forgiveness is a promise for you to experience from God, but forgiveness is also a process for you to extend toward others. You sin against God, and His promise of forgiveness is available to you. As a recipient of God’s forgiveness, God expects you to offer forgiveness to others.

You will experience hurt, injury, wound, or injustice at the hands of others. God is aware of everything you experience, yet God knows that your unforgiveness toward others ultimately harms you. God models how to offer forgiveness toward others who have offended, hurt, or injured you.

Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourself with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you.

Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Colossians 3:12-13

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:31-32

The Greek word (aphiemi), most often translated as forgiveness, means to release, to let go, or to send away. You make a deliberate effort to let go of the injury or injustice or release the person or situation associated with the hurt or wound that constantly occupies your emotional energy, time, and thoughts. The process of forgiving others is something God performs supernaturally through strengthening you. You naturally want vengeance, but God asks you to leave vengeance to Him (Romans 12:17-19).

Forgiveness is a choice or commitment God makes toward you, and God asks you to offer forgiveness to others. The anger and intense emotions associated with the hurt, injury, or injustice can return at any moment, and that is why forgiveness is a process, an ongoing act on your part. You are in constant communication with God asking Him to strengthen you to extend mercy and allow God to handle the person or situation. You confirm in your heart and mind that you want to release the person or situation to God to handle perfectly. You ask God to send away the intense emotions that have been ignited within you again and help you let go of the associated thoughts in your mind. This deliberate release by you gives you the freedom to live again because you let go of vengeance because God promises to complete this responsibility on your behalf.

When Jesus taught His disciples about prayer, He connected their willingness to forgive to God’s response to their prayers for their own forgiveness of sins.

[Jesus speaking]: “But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too. Mark 11:25

[Jesus speaking]: “Pray like this: …… and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. … If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:12, 14-15

God knows that factors are associated with the process of forgiveness (e.g., the severity, acknowledgment, intentionality, and frequency of the wrong or injustice). Yet, God still asks you to forgive as He forgives you. Forgiveness does not remove or change the reality of the injustice or wrong. Forgiveness affirms the reality of the wrongdoing or injustice and positions it in its proper place, God’s hands, to allow you to pursue life with God.

You may come to the realization that you have a permanent and adverse impact from an injustice or injury. This realization doesn’t mean you are stuck or the injustice or injury defines you. This realization just means you may need more time and more communication with God requesting His supernatural strength to make progress in forgiveness. The process of forgiveness deepens your self-awareness and promotes spiritual growth in you because you are confronting your beliefs about injustice, forgiveness, yourself, and God. You can develop the strength to extend forgiveness to others because you are a recipient of constant forgiveness from God.

When it comes to forgiveness, you have a choice: remain in your current state of unforgiveness or seek strength and courage to embrace a change of heart and mind. If you are willing to consider the process of forgiveness, God is ready to help you. Remember, forgiveness is a process, not a one-time choice. It’s a consistent spiritual journey with God whereby you acknowledge the reality of the injustice or injury, but you work diligently to send away, release, and let go of your thoughts and actions of vengeance, knowing God is responsible and that consequences exist, but you are free to live your life with God.

Finally, forgiveness does not mean reconciliation, nor does it mean the injustice, injury, or wrong is less real, forgotten, or even acceptable. Forgiveness aims to free you to live with God the life He intended for you before you experienced injustice, injury, or wrong.

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