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If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. 2 Cor 5:17

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Go to the source! Discover what the Bible says about …

These pages are designed to aid study or investigation for Christian discipleship through individual Bible study, Cell groups, Home groups, or meeting one to one.  The questions could be used alone allowing each person to use their own Bible.

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Introduction

When someone has harmed me, or those I love, I can feel so much anger that it is difficult for us to relate.  So how can I forgive that person when my orientation towards them is to seek harm rather than love.  When I forgive that person I am saying that the price is paid for the harm done. We can move forwards in the relationship and seek to restore trust.


This is all very well in the head, but when hurt, forgiveness is tough. The great challenge that Jesus sets before us and that we see in the Bible is that he asks us to forgive others.  The Bible asks us to forgive not because we are satisfied through vengeance, but because Jesus himself has paid the price, and are we willing to accept it.


Bible Zone

So what does the Bible say about forgiving others? How do I forgive when there is such pain? Forgiveness ultimately depends on God.


Forgiveness a challenge?

Forgiveness is easy to people who have not been hurt.  To those who have suffered great loss, it can seem almost impossible.  Rationally there is nothing to it.  You just tell the person I forgive you.  The reality however is that you are deeply hurt and angry. It would seem that to forgive is to despise the cost of the pain inflicted.  When the situation is an ongoing one, there is always the fear that the one forgiven will repeat the error and inflict more pain.  To forgive can be seen as letting them off the hook.


Forgiveness and God

We can think that our forgiveness or lack of it is a private thing, but the Lord is very clear that He himself is impacted by our actions and attitudes.  Ephesians 4:29-32

  1. What words and attitudes does Jesus ask of us?
  2. What impact do our hurtful attitudes have on God?
  3. What right has God to ask us to forgive when people hurt us?


Ephesians 4:29-32  29 Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.   30 And do not bring sorrow to God's Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own,* guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.   31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.


Why forgive?

The Lord asks for us to forgive.  From experience as a father, I know how hard it is to forgive one child who holds a grudge against another.  Our heavenly Father is concerned not just that we have a good relationship with Him, but with His other children also.


Consider how important Jesus saw forgiveness at the tail end of His teaching on the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:9-15.

  1. How does the prayer of v12 link with the condition of vs 14&15?
  2. What does it mean in our relationship with God that God might not forgive us?


Matthew 6:9-15  Our Father in heaven,   may your name be kept holy. 10 May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth,   as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today the food we need,* 12 and forgive us our sins,   as we have forgiven those who sin against us. 13 And don't let us yield to temptation,*   but rescue us from the evil one.*

  14 "If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.


Through prayer God gives resources to forgive - but it may not seem so at the time. You need to forgive however you feel.  As you look back, you will see how He was there.


Forgive how much?

It is one thing to forgive once, but what happens when one is dealing with a repeat offender.  consider this statement of Jesus’ in Matt 18:21-22

  1. What difficulty is there in forgiving easily and frequently?
  2. How often does Jesus ask for people to forgive?


Matthew 18:21-22  Then Peter came to him and asked, "Lord, how often should I forgive someone* who sins against me? Seven times?"   22 "No, not seven times," Jesus replied, "but seventy times seven!*


Heart to forgive

Jesus follows the teaching above by a parable in which a powerful servant, who has just been forgiven a huge debt, attacks a weak servant who owes him some money. This points to the basis of showing forgiveness.  Matthew 18:31-35

  1. In this parable, what does the king call on the powerful servant to remember?
  2. What does God call on you to remember in your life, when you find it hard to forgive others?


Matthew 18:31-35   31 "When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened.32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, 'You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me.33 Shouldn't you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?'34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.   35 "That's what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters* from your heart."


It is worth noting that forgiveness is not out of some contractual obligation or obedience to a rule.  The rules say wrongdoing should be punished.  Rather, it is because God did not bring those same rules to bare on us that we owe it to Him to forgive His other children.


How can I forgive?

Forgiveness can seem a lofty and unattainable ideal.  Consider this example of Stephen who was falsely accused, proclaimed truth before the Sanhedron, the Jewish ruling assembly, to which they responded by killing him.  Acts 7:54-60

  1. What pain (physical and emotional) was Stephen experiencing at this point?
  2. How sorry were those who were killing him?
  3. What words did Stephen speak while being attacked?
  4. If Stephen could forgive in these circumstances, can you in yours?


Acts 7:54-60  54 The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen's accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage.*55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God's right hand.56 And he told them, "Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God's right hand!"   57 Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him58 and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul.*   59 As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."60 He fell to his knees, shouting, "Lord, don't charge them with this sin!" And with that, he died.

HOW CAN I FORGIVE?