Forgiveness is the Only Option

Marty Gravelyn - Small Groups Director


Then Peter came up to him and said, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22

We’ve all been there. My day was cruising along, the sun was out, and BAM! Out of nowhere, a car pulls out right in front of me in the village. A loved one criticizes my words spoken in truth and love. My spouse gives me the cold shoulder after a fight in the car on the way home from church. These are just a few examples in my life where I had to make a choice — a choice to forgive.  

Not long ago, it would have been impossible. Impossible because I would have had to do it in my own strength. Before I realized that I had been forgiven, and that the blood of my Savior paid for it all. In his strength, and by his blood, I can choose forgiveness.

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What is forgiveness?

Forgiveness is the decision to release a person from the obligation that resulted when he or she injured you. I think it’s important that we look at forgiveness vertically, before we can apply it horizontally. My sin placed me in debt to God and my relationship with him was broken. Without forgiveness, I would suffer eternal punishment separated from my loving Father. In order to restore our relationship, I need to confess my sin against a holy God. 

It brings me great joy to know that God forgives and our relationship is restored because of the finished work of Jesus Christ. As we sin against God, we also sin against one another, leading to broken relationships with family and friends. In order for our broken relationships to be restored, the obligation must be handled. Forgiveness does just that. When we grant forgiveness to one another, it releases a person from their debt, and removes the barriers that could hinder a deep, long-lasting, meaningful relationship.

How do I ask for forgiveness?

Simply put, you take responsibility for your wrong actions, you state your sin and humbly ask the person you’ve sinned against to forgive you. You will also need to take steps to “put off” the sinful behaviors and “put on” righteous ones. Forgiveness isn’t a sometimes thing — it’s an always thing.  Even when it’s hard, it’s part of pleasing God with your life. Without the Holy Spirit, continual forgiveness is a bar we can’t clear, it’s impossible. But with the power of God’s Spirit, we can! I’m amazed that the same God that commands our forgiveness is the same God that gives us the strength to do it.

How do I forgive?

In humility, we give up our desire to punish the offender, we yield to God’s command to forgive by the power of the Holy Spirit, and we do not dwell on the past. In essence, we are agreeing to a forgiveness contract with three parts:

  1. I will not hold this offense against you.

  2. I will not speak of this offense to others.

  3. I will not speak of this offense to myself.

“But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15). This verse doesn’t teach that we earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving others, but that those who don’t forgive fail to see their own sin and may not believe in Jesus at all. If you are continually unwilling to forgive, you may have never been forgiven.  

How much should I forgive?

God gives us a clear example of just how forgiving we are called to be in The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:21-35). One servant owes a debt he can never repay — he has no hope for himself, no hope for his family or their future. All he can do is cry out for mercy from the King, and by his Majesty’s grace, the servant’s debt is forgiven! Of course, this servant, having been forgiven so much, will show gratitude and forgive others knowing he has experienced forgiveness, right? We know that’s not how this story ends, but what can we learn from it? 

My Story of Forgiveness

I see God’s fingerprints of forgiveness in my life before and after my salvation, where I was so clearly forgiven and shown grace for injuring others. I didn’t understand the magnitude of being forgiven, and how I was to live in light of it.  

Prior to giving my life to Christ, I continued to injure people — the biggest recipient being my wife. It wasn’t until God lovingly leveled me through brokenness in my marriage that I realized my need for a relationship with Jesus Christ. In confessing and repenting for a life full of sin, I came to realize the forgiveness I had received, what that forgiveness cost, and how I was to live moving forward.  

What’s your story?

The experience of forgiveness in your life from our heavenly Father demands that you forgive others. I am able to forgive others more readily knowing how much I have been forgiven. Those that are unable to forgive, do not fully understand the magnitude of the forgiveness they have received! My forgiveness came with a price. An almighty God took on flesh, came to earth to live a perfect life, only to be betrayed, beaten, mocked, and crucified. And he did it willingly. For me… and he did it for you too.