Forgiveness

vs. Rejection
Forgiveness is clearing the record of those who have wronged me and allowing God to love them through me.

Key Verse

“He took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt.”
Matthew 2:14b

The operational definition of forgiveness is “clearing the record of those who have wronged me and allowing God to love them through me.” In a world filled with sin and conflict, offenses are inevitable. One key God gives for unity is forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean you ignore an offender’s sin or waive the consequences. However, it does mean that you make a deliberate decision to let go of any bitter or vengeful feelings toward the one who has wronged you. Whether or not he repents, you choose to forgive him, thereby clearing the record of his wrong against you. “Clearing the record” means you choose to forget his offense and love him as God enables you, despite the pain that he caused you.

When we acknowledge our sins against God, He promises: “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18).
When we do not forgive others, bitterness takes deep root in our lives and eventually produces evil fruit that will defile many. (See Hebrews 12:14–15.)

The opposite of forgiveness is rejection. When people wrong you, your natural response is to retaliate or to hurt them in return. You want them to pay for what they did. You may lash out in angry words or actions. You may avoid them. Perhaps you say nothing, giving them the “silent treatment.” You may tell others, hoping they will turn against your offenders, too. These responses are all forms of rejection, springing from an unforgiving heart. With those reactions, you are putting yourself in God’s place and acting as judge over your offenders, deciding and carrying out their penalties! God wants you to trust Him as Judge. Instead of reacting, seek to meet the needs of the ones who hurt you. You cannot prevent wrongs, but you can know that when they happen, God will enable you to respond with forgiveness and not with revenge or rejection.

Evaluation Questions

  • Have I purposed in my heart to trust God at all times, even when I am wronged by another?
  • Do I think that forgiving an offender will encourage him to do wrong again, or do I trust that God will deal with my offender?
  • Do I inwardly hope that my offenders are punished, or do I sincerely pray for their restoration?
  • Am I harboring any negative attitudes toward others due to unresolved past hurts?
  • Have I looked for ways to do good to those who have wronged me?
  • When a believer offends me, do I understand that forgiveness is essential to unity in the Body of Christ?
  • Is there anyone who can say that I offended them and never tried to make it right?
  • Do I humbly pray for God’s grace to admit my failures and ask others to forgive me?

More About Forgiveness

“He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven.”
Thomas Fuller
Transformation results as we behold the Lord and yield to the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Corinthians 3:18). As we see God’s character through testimonies in Scripture, we grow in our understanding and obedience to His Word. Here are ten aspects of Forgiveness with supporting verses found in God’s Word.

God enables me to:

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Clear the record.

“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” MATTHEW 18:21–22
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Ask for forgiveness.

“And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.” ACTS 24:16
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Invest treasure.

“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” ROMANS 12:19–21
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Thank Him in suffering.

“If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.” I PETER 4:14
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Acknowledge my sin.

“For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.” PSALM 51:3–4
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Overlook offenses.

“The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.” PROVERBS 19:11
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Be quick to forgive.

“Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” EPHESIANS 4:26 “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” MARK 11:25
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Not seek revenge.

“See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.” I THESSALONIANS 5:15
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Respond kindly to those who hurt me.

“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” COLOSSIANS 3:12–13
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Strive for unity.

“If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” ROMANS 12:18 “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” ROMANS 14:19

Forgiveness in Scripture

Joseph’s Unexpected Response to His Brothers

“And Joseph said unto them . . . . But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good . . . . Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.”
Genesis 50:19–21
Through miraculous circumstances, the young Hebrew slave Joseph became ruler over all the land of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. Joseph followed God’s direction and wisely stored up grain before the prophesied famine began. As the famine spread throughout the earth, a group of ten foreigners arrived and bowed down to Joseph, requesting to buy grain. Joseph recognized them immediately. These men were his older half-brothers! More than twenty years earlier, they had thrown him into a pit and ruthlessly sold him into slavery! Joseph decided to not reveal his identity yet, and his brothers left Egypt with their purchase of grain. The day came when the brothers’ supply of food was again depleted. They made a second journey to Egypt. This time, to test their repentance, Joseph hid his silver cup in the youngest brother Benjamin’s sack of grain. When the chalice was found, an older brother pleaded to take Benjamin’s punishment. Joseph, seeing their change of heart, could no longer hold back his tears. After ordering all the Egyptians to leave the room, Joseph wept aloud. What would he say to his brothers? Would he seek revenge and choose to have his offenders punished? Or would he act kindly toward those who had hurt him?

Revealed in Nature

Sheep

The sheep quickly rebounds from hardship. It will endure suffering and affliction without retaliating or uttering a sound. A sheep’s wounds heal very quickly due to the special clotting ability of its blood.

For Kids

Biblical Character Illustrated Curriculum

The Biblical Character Illustrated Curriculum uses examples from the lives of men and women in the Bible whose walk with God resulted in good character or whose lack of faith produced poor character. Through this study children are motivated both to ask for forgiveness when they have done wrong and to demonstrate God’s love by forgiving their offenders.

View the Forgiveness booklet sample:

Get the complete Forgiveness booklet with all four lessons & activities:

Free Resources for Forgiveness

Enjoy these selections from the Biblical Character Illustrated Curriculum that are fun and memorable!

Bible Story Coloring Page
Verse & Definition Word Search
Related Hymn Sheet Music
“If you are suffering from a bad man’s injustice, forgive him lest there be two bad men.”
St. Augustine
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