Bible Study About Forgiveness: Learning To Let Go

Bible Study About Forgiveness: Learning To Let Go

The topic of forgiveness can be a touchy one. We don’t have to do hours of theological research to know that forgiveness is a major part of the Christian faith. But, most of us have deep empathy for those who have endured trauma leaving many unanswered questions. Do terrorists or criminals get away with causing deep pain to others? Does a lawless deed go unpunished because we exercise true forgiveness? Where is the boundary? We need the supernatural power of Jesus to help us forgive.

In this post, we will address these difficult questions with God’s truths.  Let’s look at the power of forgiveness from a biblical perspective.  

Table of Contents

Why Do We Need To Forgive? 

We need to forgive because it is a pivotal part of our emotional healing. Forgiveness is a key element to moving on from emotional wounds and getting past the cycle of unresolved pain. 

According to the word of God, if you cannot forgive you cannot receive forgiveness for yourself. I know it sounds harsh, but it’s the truth. The beautiful part is that Jesus is by your side every step of the way during your forgiveness journey.

Let’s look at these five scriptures that all reiterate the point that God’s word says we must forgive others to receive forgiveness for ourselves:

  • For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.  Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV)
  • Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)
  • Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13 (NIV)
  • Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:37 (NIV)
  • And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. Mark 11:25 (NIV)

The Definition Of Forgiveness 

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word forgive as ‘to cease to feel resentment against (an offender).’ You will know you forgave with your whole heart when you have released the resentment toward your family member or friend who offended you. Resentment is when you have ill will towards someone due to being wronged by them in some way. 

Hurting people hurt people. Your offender hurt you because they were hurt by someone else in one way or another. And, just like you make mistakes against others, your offender has made a mistake against you. As the bible says, we are called to forgive anything against anyone (Mark 11:25). In my personal experience, it has been easier for me to forgive my offenders when God shows me their pain. It gives me compassion for them. 

I know that this concept of forgiving everything can raise the eyebrows of many. Am I saying that we are called to forgive all things (even the awful things)? Yes, I am saying just that because that is what the bible says.

Some would say that sexual abuse or rape is unforgivable, but that’s not true according to the word of God. When the power of God moves you to forgive you can do it because of Him. You don’t forgive in your own strength but in the supernatural strength you receive from God when you decide to forgive.  

Ultimately, forgiveness is when you give your heart permission to release resentment, negative feelings, and ill will toward your offender.

Necessary Parts Of Forgiveness

The necessary parts of forgiveness are outlined in Colossians 3:12-14. Here’s the scripture:

Love One Another 
12 You are always and dearly loved by God! So robe yourself with virtues of God, since you have been divinely chosen to be holy. Be merciful as you endeavor to understand others, and be compassionate, showing kindness toward all. Be gentle and humble, unoffendable in your patience with others. 13 Tolerate the weaknesses of those in the family of faith, forgiving one another in the same way you have been graciously forgiven by Jesus Christ. If you find fault with someone, release this same gift of forgiveness to them. 14 For love is supreme and must flow through each of these virtues. Love becomes the mark of true maturity.

Colossians 3:12-14, The Passion Translation

As we receive the love of God we are called to clothe ourselves in the virtues of God. These virtues are the necessary parts of forgiveness. This includes being merciful to others, trying to understand others and their faults, showing compassion to others, and walking in kindness. The scripture also challenges us to be gentle, humble, unoffendable, and have patience with others. When we forgive and walk in love towards others this is the mark of true maturity.

Forgiveness Is A Choice

Forgiveness is a choice. It is our decision whether or not we choose to walk in the love of Jesus Christ. It does not always feel good and our emotions may not always line up with our choice to forgive. However, it is a choice that you make out of obedience to Jesus Christ based on scripture.

When you decide to let go of an offense you have with someone you have chosen to forgive. It is in that moment, when you decide to deal with the hurt in your heart and release your offender, that true forgiveness is exercised. Some people forgive with their mouths but do not forgive with their hearts. This is not true forgiveness. True forgiveness involves a heart change.

Forgiveness is vital to emotional healing. It does not always feel good, but releasing the hurt allows Jesus to come in and heal.

How Many Times Should We Forgive?

According to the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 18:21-22, we need to forgive seventy-seven times. I believe this answer is an analogy. It’s a picture of biblical forgiveness in that it addresses the issue of forgiving the first time but then if the offense arises again you forgive that same person again. 

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'” Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV)

Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV)

What Is the Boundary With Forgiveness?

Our natural response when we are hurt is to want to distance ourselves from that person and the hurt that they caused our hearts. But 1 Corinthians 13:5 says that love does not keep a record of wrongs. Finding the balance between obeying God’s command to forgive and deciding who to allow back into our lives is where boundaries come into play. Yes, we should keep a clean heart but we also should NOT allow someone to abuse us.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 

1 Corinthians 13:4-6, NIV

Love rejoices in truth and that means we have to look at the truth of the relationship you are forgiving. If that relationship is toxic, it is important that you acknowledge it and make decisions accordingly.

Forgiveness Does Not Always Mean Reconciliation

Forgiveness is not always paired with reconciliation. Reconciliation would only be appropriate if the person you are forgiving shows remorse for what they did and if they were safe to go back into a relationship with. Extending true heart forgiveness is a sign of maturity and it sets us free but we are not to put ourselves in harm’s way. This means that we are to step away from abusive relationships, protect ourselves, and get professional help where we need it. The therapeutic insight of a counselor is invaluable. I highly recommend getting a counselor’s opinion on your relationship if you are unsure of how to move forward.

Forgiveness Comes In Stages

Forgiveness usually comes in stages. We have to let go of our bound-up resentment and make a firm decision to forgive no matter what. Of course, we keep our boundaries. However, sometimes unforgiveness hides itself deep in our hearts. When asked we will say that we forgave that person but in reality, we are having a hard time fully letting it go. If you find yourself in this situation you just need to forgive again.

Our hearts have layers like an onion. As one layer is healed another layer exists below that will need a deeper level of healing. I believe that God doesn’t have us deal with the deeper layers in our hearts until we are ready. He waits until with have the coping skills we need to face the underlying pain.

It’s like having a callous on your hand. The callous goes away when the skin under it is healed enough to not be injured again. As the outer layers of your heart heal, the inner layers strengthen and can face the pain. This is part of the emotional wellness journey. And, I believe the journey to healing your heart starts with forgiveness.

Unforgiveness that is not dealt with opens the door for a root of bitterness to form in your heart. If you decide not to forgive then you are allowing the pain to stay in your heart and torment you. But when you forgive you can receive God’s help and He will heal your heart. 

Another important point to note is that forgiveness is not saying your offender was right. Rather, forgiveness is handing over your offense to God and trusting Him to make it right. True justice is the healing of our hearts by trusting Jesus with our emotional pain.

God’s Is The Ultimate Avenger

God has the job of the ultimate Avenger. The forgiveness of others is our responsibility according to God’s word. We can leave it up to Father God to take care of justice. The beauty of it all is that we can trust Him with our offenses. We don’t have to keep a grudge or try to figure it out. The irony of it all is that forgiveness ends up being our greatest gift from God because we are relieved from the pressure of revenge. 

“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

Romans 12:19, NIV

Think About The Story of Joseph And His Brothers

Remember the story of Joseph, son of Jacob, and his brothers in the Old Testament. Joseph was left for dead by his brothers and endured years of hardship. Then, the day came many years later when he was face to face with them. Joseph had a choice. Would he forgive? Or would he get revenge? Read Genesis chapters 37-50 for the entire story, but (spoiler alert!) here was Joseph’s response to his brothers:

You meant to hurt me, but God turned your evil into good to save the lives of many people, which is being done. So don’t be afraid. I will take care of you and your children.” So Joseph comforted his brothers and spoke kind words to them.

Genesis 50:20-21, NCV

Be encouraged. Joseph responded with forgiveness when his moment of truth presented itself in his life. This could be the greatest example of forgiveness. I believe Joseph was able to respond this way because he had so many years to grow close to God, receive His love, and watch God come through for him time and time again. 

You also are defined by God’s love and His plans for your life. It is your choice. Will you begin to forgive and release the emotional pain in your heart? Will you trust God with your offenders? I hope you will. My prayer is that this bible study will give you a better perspective on the topic of forgiveness. 

Rayna Piazza

With over 15 years of emotional healing ministry experience, Rayna Piazza blogs about emotional wellness, the biblical benefits of forgiveness, and personal growth for Christian women.
Her experience includes completing Bethel Sozo ministry training including Basic Sozo Training and Advanced Sozo Training; ministering weekly to at-risk teens in foster care (2008-2012); leading emotional healing ministry groups for women (2013-2020); teaching Prophetic School in Brazil to several local churches (2013); leading prayer groups and assisting in pastoral care counseling as the support person for over 10 years. Take a journey with Rayna to explore the ins and outs of emotional healing, learn your purpose, and walk in your God-given destiny. The Seeking Him Today blog is named in the Top 100 Best Christian Women Blogs and Websites by Feedspot.

Did this blog post speak to your heart? I hope so! Sign up today to receive my emails featuring the latest from Seeking Him Today by going to our Stay In Touch page.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin