Although, it’s funny that something as straightforward as forgiveness can actually be quite complicated. Saying the words “I forgive you” does not seem like a huge undertaken. But all of us know that there is much more to the process of forgiveness than just saying three little words.

Biblical Examples of Forgiveness

There are lots of biblical examples of forgiveness, which I am happy to mention, but a caveat needs to be offered after I list some off. There is forgiveness shown by God toward Adam and Eve despite their disobedience in the Garden of Eden. There is the forgiveness exhibited by the Father who welcomes home the Prodigal Son with a loving embrace and celebratory party. There are the words of forgiveness spoken by Joseph to his brothers—the ones who sold him into slavery in Egypt—when he said to them, “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve our people.” There are the admonitions contained in the Lord’s Prayer and the verses in the Sermon on the Mount: “If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” And there is the powerful statement made by Christ from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

The Importance of Showing Forgiveness

The Bible seems quite clear about the importance of showing forgiveness. The caveat that needs to be mentioned, though, is that people commonly feel that the biblical imperative to forgive doesn’t precisely apply to their particular situation. They feel there are mitigating factors that push the clarity of scripture into murkier territory. For example, how are we to treat forgiveness if the other person does not repent of their actions or refuses to apologize? Are there some crimes so heinous that forgiveness is illogical, if not impossible? Must we forgive and forget, or does some of the pain we suffer necessarily linger long after we offer words of forgiveness?

Remember When Forgiveness Was Given Unto You

Maybe the place to start with the topic of forgiveness is not wondering what it feels like for us to forgive, but to call to mind the times when someone has forgiven us. There is power in hearing someone say to you (even with limitations such as “just this once”), “I’ll tell you what, I’ll forgive you.”

We have all been forgiven countless times, both by God and those around us. Letting that be our starting point will help us navigate our emotions and unsettledness when we are asked to forgive. Christ calls us to be people of mercy, grace and forgiveness, so whatever it takes, it is worth the effort.

Pastor Rhoden