“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
What do we mean we say, “I forgive you”? More importantly, do we mean what the Bible means?
When we really dig into Scripture’s teaching on forgiveness, we find that it stretches and challenges us, forcing us into the uncomfortable territory of being more like Jesus. Without further ado, taking our cues from God’s Word and God’s forgiveness, here’s what we should mean when we say “I forgive you”:
I will cover this sin with the grace of Christ every time I feel its injury and pain
Psalm 103:11-12 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
Luke 17:3-4 If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.
Luke 7:37-50 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven- for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.
Hebrews 13:12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.
I relinquish the pursuit of vengeance
Proverbs 24:29 Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done.”
Romans 12:19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
1 Peter 2:23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
I accept the suffering caused by your sin
Matthew 5:39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Philippians 1:29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake…
Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church…
2 Timothy 2:3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
1 Peter 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
I commit to protecting your reputation
Proverbs 11:13 Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.
Proverbs 22:1 A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.
Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
I will pray and work for God’s best for you
Romans 12:17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Colossians 3:12-14 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
I am committed to reconciliation
Matthew 5:24 First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Romans 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
(…when forgiving believers) I count you as righteous—justified and sanctified—in Christ
Acts 13:38-39 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through [Jesus] forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.