Part 4 of “Walking on the Edge of Darkness” Series
(See parent tract for background.)
By John Whritenor


It can be difficult to forgive others, especially when they are family members and their offense involves sexual, physical, or verbal abuse. In counseling I have heard people say, “I just can’t forgive them.”  The offense is so  devatating  to them  that  they just can’t get past their deep hurt and anger. A Radio Bible Class tract I read several years ago was entitled, “You Don’t Always Have to Forgive.” In it the author stated conditions under which you not only don’t have to forgive, but where you should not forgive. Are these statements correct and do they imply that the Bible places conditions on forgiveness? Or are they merely more examples of  “walking on the edge of darkness?” Unforgiveness can lead to anger and anger to the darkness of depression, bitterness, wrath, and retribution. Not good places to be!

Biblical Words For Forgiveness

Before examining the wisdom (or lack thereof) of the above quotations, let’s examine the words used for forgiveness in Scripture. The following lists present all the Hebrew and Greek words that I have found in numerous searches of the Bible. They are either directly translated “forgiveness” or are defined as forgiveness because of their contexts. Representative passages where the words express forgiveness, whether or not their normal definition is forgiveness, are in dark print. Similarly, passages where the subject word is not used to express forgiveness, but instead illustrates its more common meaning, are in light print. For example, in Ps 51:2 kabac is translated wash (“wash me thoroughly from my iniquity”). It is in dark print because it conveys forgiveness. In Ex 19:14 kabac is also translated wash (“they washed their clothes”). It is in light print, reflecting its common usage.

Old Testament Words for Forgiveness

Hebrew *

English 1

Key Passages Used In

1- Machah (36)

Wipe, blot out

Ps 51:1, 9; Isa 43:25; 2 Ki 21:13

2- Taher (95)

Wash away, cleanse

Ps 51:2, 7; 2 Ch 29:15

3- Kabac (51)

Purify, wash

Ps 51:2, 7; Ex 19:14

4- Chata (238)

Cleanse, purge

Ps 51:7; Ex 29:36

5- Cathar (80)

Hide, conceal

Ps 51:9; Isa 16:3

6- Shalak (125)

Cast away

Ps 51:11; Isa 38:17; Ex 18:31; Ps 55:22

7- Cuwr (301)

Take away, turn off

Isa 6:7, 27:9; Ps 66:20

8- Kaphar (102)

Atone for, put-off

Isa 6:7; Ps 78:38; Jer 18:23; Isa 47:11

9- Nasa (653)

Lift away

Ps 32:1, 5, 25:18, 85:2; Ru 2:18

10- Kacah (152)


Ps 32:1, 85:2; Ps 106:11; Pr 11:13

11- Naqah (44)

Make blameless

Ps 19:12; Nu 5:28

12- Calach (46)

Forgive, spare

Ps 103:3, 25:11; Jer 31:34; Dt 29:20

13- Rachaq (59)

Put far away

Ps 103:12; Pr 22:15

14- Celiuchah (3)

Ready to pardon

Ne 9:17b; Ps 130:4

15- Callach (1)

Ready to forgive

Ps 86:5

New Testament Words for Forgiveness

Greek *

English 1

Key Passages Used In

1- Epikalupto (1)

Conceal, cover

Ro 4:7

2- Exaleipho (5)

Blot out, wipe out

Ac 3:19; Col 2:14; Rev 7:17

3- Katharismos (30)

Purge, cleanse

1 Jo 1:7, 9; Mt 8:3

4- Luo (43)

Wash, loosen

Rv 1:5; Mt 21:2

5- Hilasterion (2)

Atone, mercy

Ro 3:25; Heb 9:5

6- Paresis (1)

Remission (release)

Ro 3:25

7- Rhantismos (5)


Heb 10:22; 1 Pt 1:1-2; Heb 9:13, 12:24

8- Aphesis (149)

Send forth, deliver, leave

Lu 11:4; Mt 6:14-15, 18:21-22, 34;
Mk 11:25-26; Lu 17:3-4
, 4:39; Jo 16:28; Ro 4:7

9- Apoluo (70)

Free fully, release

Lu 6:37; Mk 8:3; Lu 13:12

10- Charizomai (24)

Impart grace to

Eph 4:32; Col 3:13; 2 Co 2:7-10; Php 2:9

* The numbers in the parenthesis after the Hebrew and Greek words
indicate the approximate number of times each word appears in the Bible.

All of the above Hebrew words are used to express God’s forgiveness of us. There are no scriptural directions in the Old Testament that I have found that state that we are to forgive one another. Only three passages even mention person to person forgiveness (Genesis 50:15-17, Exodus 10:14-18, and 1 Samuel 25:17-28). All three use the Hebrew word nasa. In each one the person asking for forgiveness was not doing so by God’s direction, but out of fear of retribution from the offended person(s). Nowhere in the Old Testament does God instruct us to forgive others. (Leviticus 19:18, which says that, “You shall not...bear any grudge (Hebrew - natar) against the children of your people,” is the only passage I’ve found in the Old Testament that could possibly be interpreted as directing forgiveness to others.)

In the Greek list for the New Testament, as in the Hebrew one for the Old Testament, all of the words address God’s forgiveness of us. The first seven words deal only with God’s forgiveness. The last three words, aphesis, apoluo, and charizomai, are the only Biblical words that direct us to forgive each other and they are used in only nine passages (see page 4 and 5). Five of these nine passages use the Greek word aphesis, a word that appears 149 times in the New Testament. Aphesis is used to express God’s forgiveness about 30 times in 19 separate passages.

Christians generally accept the idea that forgiveness between people is important to their mental, emotional, and spiritual health and to the maintenance of wholesome relationships. I read recently of a secular psychiatric group that held forgiveness workshops to counter the harmful effects of unforgiveness on the mental health of their patients. Considering its importance, why would God use all the Hebrew words and 70 percent of the Greek ones to address only His forgiveness and not use most of them to also address human forgiveness? Doesn’t His word usage seem to shortchange the idea of forgiving others? In answering these questions, let’s look first at God’s forgiveness.

God’s Forgiveness

Sin separates us from God. Without forgiveness of sins there is no relationship with God. Without being freed from sin there is no salvation. Jesus came with the answer. He shed His blood to wash our sins away, reconcile us to God, and give eternal life to all who believe in Him. See verses below:

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves (or bond servants- servants who choose to be slaves) of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:20-23)

For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. (Colossians 1:19-20)

We must know our sins are forgiven through the blood of Jesus without equivocation or exception. The guilt of unforgiven sins can cripple us spiritually and emotionally and make us targets for the accusations and lies of Satan. (See 2 Corinthians 2:10, Revelation 12:10.)

As we have seen, the Bible uses 25 words to describe His forgiveness of us. It even uses two of the Hebrew words to express His readiness to forgive (celiuchah and callach). If nothing else, the number of words and their imbalance, strongly favoring God’s forgiveness, proclaim loudly that God is very serious about His forgiveness of us. He unquestionably wants us to know how ardent He is about blotting out, cleansing, purifying, hiding, concealing, washing away, wiping away, casting away, taking away, lifting away, putting away, purging, loosing, atoning for, delivering us from, and releasing us from our sins, as well as sprinkling us clean and making us blameless! WOW! Talk about forgiveness!!! But what about the imbalance? It almost suggests that He is ambivalent about our forgiving others. Could God be indifferent about this important subject? I don’t think so. Let’s see why He might have emphasized His forgiveness as He did.

Our Forgiveness

God has a purpose for His lopsided use of words. To discover why, let’s look at the nine passages mentioned above that address forgiving others:

For if you forgive (aphesis) men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive (aphesis) you. But if you do not forgive  (aphesis) men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive (aphesis) your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15)

...if you have anything against anyone, forgive (aphesis) him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive (aphesis) you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive (aphesis), neither will your Father in heaven forgive (aphesis) your trespasses. (Mark 11:25-26)

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving (charizomai) one another, even as God in Christ forgave (charizomai) you. (Ephesians 4:32)

...forgiving (charizomai) one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave (charizomai) you, so you also must do. (Colossians 3:13) ought rather to forgive (charizomai) and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow....Now whom you forgive (charizomai) anything, I also forgive (charizomai). For if indeed I have forgiven (charizomai) anything, I have forgiven (charizomai) that one for your sakes.... (2 Corinthians 2:7-10)

Forgive (apoulo), and you will be forgiven (apoluo).  (Luke 6:37)

And forgive (aphesis) us our sins, for we also forgive (aphesis) everyone who is indebted to us. (Luke 11:4)

Peter said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive (aphesis) him? Up to seven times?”  Jesus said, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”....“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive (aphesis) his brother his trespasses.” (Matthew 18:21-22, 34)

If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive (aphesis) him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive (aphesis) him. (Luke 17:3-4)

The first seven passages tie our forgiveness of others to God’s forgiveness of us. The first two declare that if we don’t forgive, He won’t forgive. The next two clearly say that we are to forgive as He has forgiven us. The last two place seemingly impossible requirements on the number of times we are to forgive. The only way we can fulfill all of these decrees is to pattern our forgiveness after His and cry out to Him for the power to do so. The link to God’s forgiveness underscores our need to have a deep understanding of His forgiveness so that we can fathom what our forgiveness is to be like. Any judgments or conditions we try to place on forgiving others must be examined in the light of His for us. Until we have a more complete understanding of the extremes to which God had to go to make His forgiveness available to us (the rejection, abuse, persecution, and crucifixion of His Son Jesus), we will face difficulties with completely forgiving others.

The only way we can fulfill all of these decrees is to pattern our forgiveness after His and cry out to
Him for the power to do so.

Our Great Need

The following passage reveals the depravity of human nature and how much man desperately needs God’s forgiveness: (If you think you did God a favor coming to Him, think again!! We all would be lost for eternity without His gracious forgiveness.)

There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes. (Romans 3:10-18)

(See pages 4 and 5 of The New Birth tract2 for a more detailed analysis of how the passage above
can apply, not only to the Hitlers and Saddam Husseins of this world, but also to ordinary people.)

Luke 7:47 links love and forgiveness together, clearly demonstrating that we can’t have one without the other:

I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven (aphesis), for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven (aphesis), the same loves little. (Luke 7:47)

The Bible reveals the magnificence and wonder of His love. This love is clearly expressed in the verses below. Along with Luke 7:47, they show that our love, and therefore our forgiveness, must be empowered by His love:

We love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life....God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (John 3:16, Romans 5:8)

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?....For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35, 38, 39)

If we don’t know how much God loves us and forgives us, we can’t love and forgive as fully as He does. In our sinful humanity, all we deserve is condemnation. But Jesus out of His great love laid down His life that we might be cleansed by His blood. He did it without equivocation or conditions. Unless we know how much we need His magnificent sacrifice, we will never be able to forgive as unconditionally as He does. The imbalance of words for forgiveness in the Bible, I believe, is done to insure that we grasp the indispensable nature of His forgiveness.

Is God’s Forgiveness Ever Conditional?

The only passages that might be interpreted as placing limitations on His forgiveness are Matthew 12:31-32 and the Lord’s prayer.

Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven (aphesis) men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven (aphesis) men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven  (aphesis) him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven (aphesis) him, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matthew 12:31-32)

Blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is attributing His work to Satan when it obviously is the work of God, usually with the intention of misleading others (see Matthew 12:24 for an example). Since it is primarily a sin against God,  it cannot be an offense we can hold against another.

Unless we know how much we need His magnificent sacrifice, we will never be able to forgive as unconditionally as He does.

In the Lord’s prayer, God conditions His forgiveness on our forgiving others. Matthew 18:23-35 sheds light on this prerequisite in the parable of the “wicked servant.” In this parable a servant begs not to be sentenced to prison for his debt of 10,000 talents (1,000,000 times 100 denarii3 ) to his master. Out of compassion, the master released him and forgave his debt. The “wicked servant” then went to a fellow servant who owed him 100 denarii and, refusing to have pity, sent him to jail until he could pay. When the master heard of this, he rescinded his forgiving of the debt of the “wicked servant” and imprisoned him. This parable is meant to accentuate the vast difference between our sins against God and the relatively small offenses we carry against others. At times we even argue about whose sin is greater, yours or mine. This debate is rather pointless in light of our sins against God. If God freely forgives all of our sins against Him, He certainly can expect us to forgive all the transgressions we hold against others (1 John 3:16).

These situations apply only to God’s forgiveness of us, not ours of others.

Do I Always Have To Forgive?

Now let’s look at the two statements presented in the introduction to this tract. Do we always have to forgive? As we have seen from the nine New Testament passages on pages 4 and 5, not only can forgiveness be challenging, but our receiving God’s forgiveness is conditioned on our willingness to forgive. Although He is always “ready to forgive” us, our unforgiveness is sin and unforgiven sin separates us from God. This separation will not only rob us of His forgiveness, but also of His peace and joy. Repentance then becomes critical for us if we would be restored to a walk worthy of the Lord and fully pleasing Him.

Does God restrict His forgiveness in any way (other than the two situations presented above)? Consider the following:

As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed (rachaq) our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive (aphesis) us our sins and to cleanse (katharismos) us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Jesus said, “Father, forgive (aphesis) them, they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:35)

In these passages God’s forgiveness is far reaching and without restrictions. Jesus’ statement in Luke 23 above was made while He was being crucified. It clearly expresses Jesus’ forgiveness as a man and as God, not only to those who severely abused and ridiculed Him, but also those driving the nails into His hands and feet. His forgiveness is so complete that His healing words from the cross reach out over the centuries to all whose sins put Him there, including you and me (Romans 5:6-8, 8:32, 1 Peter 3:18, 1 John 4:10).

Considering all this, how could any Christian propose that, “You Don’t Always Have to Forgive?” The author of the tract with that title states that we should not forgive people who have not repented because they need to learn from their sin. We should not let them off the hook - for their good.  This is not biblical reasoning. It is true that our forgiveness may not restore trust or cause our offenders to face their sins, unless they are brought to  repentance. However, it is ultimately God’s job to bring them to repentance, not ours. (Note that none of the last three Greek words on page 2, the only ones used for human forgiveness, express the idea of cleansing, washing, atoning for, or purging of sins. Only Jesus, because of His shed blood, can cleanse the one who is forgiven.) We must let nothing keep us from forgiving, not even the lack of contrition in those who sin against us. The seven times in one day requirement of Luke 17:3-4 and the 490 times of Matthew 18: 21-22 (see page 5) make it very clear that sincere remorse is not to be a condition for forgiving. However, God may at times have us go to an offending person, not to condemn them, but to restore them. We will only be able to go in the “spirit of gentleness,” described below, if we have forgiven them.

If a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness.... (Galatians 6:1)

There are times when the offense is so bad, the person so unrepentant, and the relationship so dangerous that it may be impossible to restore trust. In extreme cases appeals may have to be made to civilian courts for protection. However, even in these circumstances, forgiveness is still necessary.

His forgiveness is so complete that His healing words from the cross reach out over the centuries to all whose sins put Him there,
including you and me.

Other Consequences Of Unforgiveness

We don’t have to be concerned about forgiveness letting someone off the hook. But we should be concerned with the fact that unforgiveness leaves us on the hook for God’s dealings. Consider the following passage that comes at the end of the parable of the “wicked servant.”

His master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive (aphesis) his brother his trespasses.” (Matthew 18:34-35)

The fruit of the sin of unforgiveness will taste bitter. But God knows the harmful effects of sin in our lives and is at work in our hearts “both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). He does His work through discipline by allowing us to reap from our sins (including unforgiveness) or by bringing difficult circumstances or perverse people into our lives. But the purpose of all of His workings is to redeem us, not simply to make life more difficult for us (although it may not seem so at times).

I knew a woman who could not forgive her husband’s verbal abuse. She severely suffered physically, as well as mentally and emotionally, from her lack of forgiveness. Her suffering wasn’t worth the questionable pleasures of holding on to her resentments or the enjoyment of thinking about his eventually having to face his just desserts.

The Heart Of Forgiveness

What does forgiveness involve? Luke 17:1-10 paints a fairly complete picture of forgiveness. The passage involves three seemingly unrelated deliberations by Jesus: a discussion about an obnoxious brother, a lesson about a mustard seed, and a story about a farm.

In the first part Jesus commands His disciples to forgive a brother seven times in the day (Luke 17:3-4 on page 5). One thing that this simple directive tells us about forgiveness is that we cannot withhold it until we see fruit in the life of our offender. Our feelings may tell us that their repentance is not sincere, but forgiveness is not to be based on feelings. We should question our forgiveness if we hold back at all, looking for that fruit (although fruit from repentance or noticeable behavioral change will usually be necessary before trust can be restored to a relationship damaged by sin).

The disciples saw the impossibility of this kind of forgiveness. Seven times in one day? After all they were only human! (Haven’t we all thought or said something like this ourselves?) Their response to the Lord was, “Increase our faith.” Jesus replied to them with the “faith as a mustard seed” message (Luke 17:6). Essentially He was saying that the faith needed to forgive in this way isn’t an extraordinary gift of faith, but faith that is to be part of a normal Christian life—faith as the smallest of seeds.

Jesus didn’t leave them hanging without further enlightenment. He answered the question (“How?”) in their minds with a story that presented the real challenge. It was a challenge of the heart. Jesus sets the stage for His tale in verse 7. A servant has just come in from a hard day in the fields and is immediately asked to prepare supper for his master and gird himself and serve the meal until his master finishes eating. The servant might be expected to grouse about his endless toil, especially when he is not thanked for all his work. But the servant does not. Then Jesus tells the disciples to be like the servant and say that (even when we have forgiven the most contemptible sin against us), “We are unworthy (bond) servants; we have only done what was our duty.” (RSV)

In His story Jesus was telling His disciples that forgiving is not a matter of great faith; it is one of obedience. But he said more than that. Forgiveness is really a matter of the heart. (Jesus addresses forgiving from the heart in Matthew 18:34, see page 5.) The heart God desires in us is one that will not only forgive and forgive and forgive again, but a heart that wants to do whatever He asks. Until we accept the place of being His bond servant (see Romans 6:20-23 on page 4 for a definition), our walk will be made up of many stumblings as we face the challenges of forgiveness each day. In Ephesians 6:6 Paul calls us to be “(bond) servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” Jesus set the example for us by being the greatest servant of all. He laid down His life that we might be reconciled to God (John 5:19, 20, 6:38). He is our pattern, not only for forgiveness, love, and obedience, but also for the heart needed to forgive.

Forgiving But Not Forgetting

Some people say that they have forgiven, but not forgotten. Others say you can’t forgive if you haven’t forgotten. Who’s right? Before we answer this question, let’s look at the relationship between God’s forgiving and forgetting. Does He, the great forgiver, forget our sins? Does He put our forgiven sins into the sea of forgetfulness as some claim? Are there any scriptures that answer these questions affirmatively? Let’s look at some passages that are used by people to answer yes to them:

“We are unworthy (bond) ervants; we have only done what was our duty.”

He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast (shalak) all our sins into the depths of the sea...As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed (rachaq) our transgressions from us. (Micah 7:19; Psalm 103:12)

Hide (cathar) Your face from my sins, and blot (machah) out all my iniquities....But You have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption, for You have cast (shalak) all my sins behind Your back. (Psalm 51:9; Isaiah 38:17)

I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember (zakar) your sins. Put Me in remembrance; let us contend together; state your case, that you may be acquitted. (Isaiah 43:25-26)

The first two passages state how far He puts our sins from us, not how far He puts them from Himself. God is omnipresent and therefore His presence reaches to the depths of the sea and covers both east and west to the extremities of the universe. According to Ephesians 4:9-10, Jesus even “descended into the lower parts of the earth.” Nothing is ever beyond His presence or His memory.

Hiding His face from our sins, as in Psalm 51, and putting them behind His back, as in Isaiah 38:17, do not mean forgetting, but only that He won’t look on them any more (and won’t cause us to either).

In Isaiah 43:25 God says that, “I will not remember (Hebrew: zakar)  your sins.” Zakar (see below) can mean to mark, to remember, or to mention. All three apply here. To me this passage says that God does not mark our forgiven sins on an account nor will He mention them to us, or to anyone else either. But I believe that God has also chosen not to remember the sins He has forgiven. None of these definitions of zakar mean that He has forgotten them. God is not senile and has no sea of forgetfulness.

zakar- to mark (to be recognized), i.e. to remember; by implication, to mention.1

Is it really important to know whether or not God forgets our sins? If you think it is a significant question, consider His total provision for us in the following two scriptures. The issues in these verses are far more important:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive (aphesis) us our sins and to cleanse (katharismos) us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.... (1 Cor 1:30, RSV)

There is nothing that can top being totally washed in the blood of Jesus, cleansed from all unrighteousness. Jesus, who knew no sin in His life as a man on earth (2 Corinthians 5:21), has become our righteousness. Because of these two realities, He sees us as fully righteous and can treat new sins as first offenses (just as He wants us to do with the sins of others against us.) God does not accumulate our hurts and offenses. He has no list of forgiven sins, mental or physical. After I had given a teaching over 20 years ago on forgiveness, a woman came to me and confessed that she had a written list of her husband’s sins against her. She decided to burn it. We need to “burn” any written or mental lists we might have of hurts and rejections from others.

If God’s forgiveness does not include forgetting, and our forgiveness is to be like His, then it seems that forgetting does not necessarily have to be involved in our forgiving either. But if we don’t forget, then how do we know if we have truly forgiven when past hurts creep back into our minds?

We Have Not Forgotten - Then What?

I believe we can determine this by considering three answers to this question. First, does the remembrance of the offense stir up in me a desire to restore the relationship and have trust rebuilt with my offender rather than bringing thoughts of getting even? (Even in Matthew 18:15-17, often called the passage of church discipline, the act of going personally to one’s offender has restoration as its goal.) Is all anger and resentment gone? If the answer is yes to both questions, then the forgiveness is real.

There is nothing that can top being totally washed in the blood of Jesus, cleansed from all unrighteousness.

Secondly, when the memory of the offense comes back, do I bring it up to them as a put-down, tell others about it, or dwell on it in my mind so that resentment, revenge, or fresh grousing are stirred up? In these cases I have not forgiven. I may even try to justify telling others by claiming that my reason for divulging the sin is only to warn them (of course for their good) of the offender’s duplicity or sinfulness. Often my real purpose is to vent my anger or frustration or to turn the third person against my offender, both clues that I really have not forgiven.

The third answer is more difficult to define. What is the nature of our forgiveness if every time we see the person or are reminded of their offense(s), anger begins to rise up? If I recognize that I had purposed to forgive, and then repent, try to turn my thoughts away from the offense, and cry out to God for help, I am well on the road to forgiving. God will complete it in His time. (Often, it is good to discuss openly our problem with another person and be willingly to seek and listen to their counsel. God usually has placed people in our lives to help us in this way.) A friend related to me recently about a leader in His church who purposely “stabbed him in the back” twice. He knew he should forgive and thought he had, but found he could not forget. He went through this process by turning his thoughts from the sins against him and crying out to God for help. This struggle lasted for two years before he was able to completely let go. Because he repeatedly chose to forgive, his anger did not turn to bitterness. In his case God intervened sovereignly by touching both of their lives and freed him to forgive completely.

The heart of forgiveness, then, is a heart of humility that expresses what the servant in the story articulated, “We are unworthy (bond) servants; we have only done what was our duty.” As bond servants of the Lord we are to follow His example of freely forgiving over and over again, while purposing not to remember the sins committed against us. But when we have done all of this, we have achieved nothing extraordinary. We have no reason to strut around and crow about what we have accomplished. We have just done what God expects to become normal behavior in the lives of His children.

Consider one other interesting aspect of God’s forgiveness. If the two Hebrew words, celiuchah and callach mean “ready to forgive” and our forgiveness is to be patterned after God’s, what does that say about us? I believe that our heart is to be in a place of humility, a place where we are always ready to forgive any offense. It is much easier to forgive as God forgives when we have allowed our hearts to be softened by the gracious forgiveness and lovingkindness that He expresses in the following passages:

God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us....If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (Romans 5:8, 1 John 1:9)


Whenever we even think about not forgiving someone, we begin “walking on the edge of darkness.” Anyone who is tempted to hold back forgiving another person needs to repent quickly and seek God’s help to forgive before they slip further into the consuming shadows of darkness. No matter how great we perceive the person’s offense to be, as Christians we don’t have an option. Most people in the world could easily draw up a list of offenses that they think are too atrocious to forgive. Although God knows that it can be extremely difficult at times, He expects us to forgive every sin against us and is ready to help us do just that. Until we appropriate His grace to forgive, our lives can easily become mired in a struggle with guilt and anger that can rob us of our peace and joy.  Repentance and forgiveness can deliver us from such despair and restore the joy of our walk with Jesus.

On pages 2 and 3 of this tract, we examined an imbalance of forgiveness words in the Bible. God uses 8.3 times as many different Hebrew and Greek words in the Bible to express His forgiveness of us than He uses to express our forgiveness of others. He wants us to know, really know, the completeness of His forgiveness. He has no strings attached. When we know Him and His faithfulness to forgive us unconditionally, we can then begin to forgive others as He forgives us. Forgiveness is critical to our walk with God and should not be considered conditional or optional. He never considers it so. In fact, Paul essentially says in Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:13 (see page 5) that we are to forgive even when it is totally undeserved. The root of the Greek word charizomai used in these verses is charis or grace. Grace has to do with unmerited favor. Forgiveness, then, can never be conditional or optional even when it is utterly undeserved. We could never deserve His.

Forgiveness can never be conditional or optional even when it is utterly undeserved.
We could never deserve His.

If you have unforgiveness toward anyone, I strongly urge you to repent and cry out to God for help. You need to release the offense and the offender no matter how painful the acts or words against you may have been or how long you have harbored resentment. You will find that God can bring a refreshing joy and peace into your heart and lead you into a new kind of freedom that you may never have experienced. The words of a new song we sing about Jesus captures the heart of freedom that can be found in Him:

And troubled minds can know His peace
Captive hearts can be released.
The King has come. The King of love has come.4

Jesus is the answer for troubled minds and captive hearts!!

All quoted Scriptures are from the NKJ Version, unless otherwise noted.


1- Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek and Hebrew Dictionary, Electronic Database, (Biblesoft & International Bible Translators, Seattle, Wa), 2002

2- Whritenor, John The New Birth (Saugerties Christian Fellowship, 2003)

3- Barnes’ Notes, Electronic Database. (Biblesoft & International Bible Translators, Seattle, Wa), 2002

4. Words by Stuart Townend and Kevin Jameson, © Kingsway ThankYou Music/ASCAP

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Contact John Whritenor, 4 Garden Court, Saugerties, NY 12477, Tel 845-246-1719