What Does God's Forgiveness Really Mean?

What Does God’s Forgiveness Really Mean?

In almost all human relationships, conflict eventually occurs since nobody is perfect. Unrealistic expectations, uncontrollable emotions, stress, or other difficulties may cause someone to react in the wrong way, damaging the relationship. This is why forgiveness is important to make things right.

Forgiveness, however, is easier said than done. Because of pride or fear, people have difficulty forgiving one another or seeking forgiveness which is why their relationship stays broken. Yet it is not only their relationship that is affected; bitterness and regret eat away at personal peace, affecting a person even after the wrong deed has been done.

Understanding More about God’s Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the action of making things right when something wrong has been committed. True forgiveness, though, is given at an unequal scale, since the damage done – physically, emotionally, and spiritually – is more than the one seeking amends can every hope to repay.

However, in human terms, the “forgiveness” people seek and bestow is more of a restoration of balance. If someone loses something of ours, they are “forgiven” when that something is replaced and a heartfelt sorry is offered. Without said replacement, the sorry is often not enough (unless what was lost did not cost much).

And many times, even after the “forgiveness” has been given, negative thoughts (e.g. anger, doubt, guilt, regret, shame, suspicion) may still persist on both sides as their hearts and minds are still holding on to the event. It is why the relationship may not be the “same” as before, especially if the transgression was very serious.

God’s Forgiveness

God’s forgiveness is deeper and truer than anything people can ever give. Scripture clearly shows us that because of our sin, the separation of humankind and God is so vast that there is nothing we can do to bridge it on our own.

As the party wronged, it is only God who can choose to forgive us and restore our fellowship with Him. It is a supernatural gift from Him to wipe clean our slates even if we are still sinners and undeserving of such forgiveness. So when God forgives, it is NOT that we were able to pay off the debt, not even partially; it is because God makes it so that our debt is no more.

God’s Continuing Grace

Though all should be now good between people and God, the problem is that everyone continues to sin. Thankfully, God chooses to continually forgive. In 1 John 1:9, it is said that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

As unfair as it may sound in human terms, simply confessing our sin to Him is enough for God to forgive again. And as we are cleansed of our unrighteousness, we are then able to live according to His righteousness until we stumble again, get up, humbly ask for His forgiveness, and try once more.

Why People Have Difficulty with Forgiveness

Most people struggle with forgiveness – both giving it and even receiving it. This is because forgiveness requires a humbling of the “self,” something that most people have tried so hard to build up over the years.

The Struggle to Forgive

As earlier stated, when a transgression has occurred, especially a major one, much has been damaged. The human ego often wants the offender to somehow satisfactorily repay all the physical, emotional, and spiritual hurt that has been rendered to them.

For example, if a laptop has been broken, it is expected that it should be fixed, and quickly! But even better, if a newer and better one is given instead, then definitely all will be good. In short, in human terms, it is from a position of power, pride, and even selfishness that a person may be willing to bestow “forgiveness.”

But “true forgiveness,” like the one God offers to us, means the offended party must step down from that lofty position and simply forgive, even if it means not receiving anything in return.

And that is really difficult for most people, particularly if the transgression hurt them directly like betrayal, assault, or abuse. Unfortunately, if such anger and bitterness still linger, the person may continue to experience that hurt internally even years after the wrong deed.

The Struggle to Receive Forgiveness

Although forgiving is a challenge to most, of greater difficulty is receiving forgiveness. In sincere situations of remorse, the transgressor sits in a place of shame. In their heart, the debt they owe is something they can never pay back.

So although they may have truly been forgiven by the one they wronged, in the transgressor’s heart they still feel ashamed, so the relationship that was broken is still not truly mended.

In some cases, though the transgressor may desire forgiveness, the one who was wronged cannot be found or has passed away. Though it may seem to most that the transgressor is now “free,” the heart again still feels much sorrow and disgrace, breaking the spirit of the transgressor themself.

What the Bible Says about Forgiveness

In the Bible, forgiveness generally comes from two angles: God’s forgiveness of us and our call to forgive others. In Ephesians 4:32, Christians are told, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

As mentioned earlier, when we ask forgiveness from Him (repentance), He wipes our slate clean. It is a gift of grace from God who chooses to forgive. This gift, however, is not something that we are to keep to ourselves. If God was gracious enough to wipe our slates clean, it is expected that we too must wipe clean the slates of others who have wronged us.

In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter approaches Jesus and asks, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus then answered, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Thus, just as God keeps forgiving us for our continual transgressions against Him, such continuous forgiveness must be extended to others as well.

Such forgiveness is not just a mere balancing of the scales, of paying back what was owed. It is true forgiveness. Impossible as it may seem, it is the standard that Jesus asks us to follow since God did even more for us. It has been said that “we cannot give what we do not have.”

Thankfully, when we receive God’s supernatural forgiveness through repentance, He then empowers us to be able to forgive the way He forgave us. It is this type of forgiveness that can truly restore relationships which is why everyone is asked to do so.

Accepting God’s Forgiveness

Just as people have difficulty receiving the forgiveness given by others, many have much difficulty accepting God’s forgiveness in their heart. Feelings of shame and unworthiness usually plague them, causing them to believe that such mercy and love are only meant for the “good” and “loveable.”

In 1 John 1:10, Scripture states, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” As one sin is already enough to label us a sinner, there is nobody who can claim to be sinless.

This is why God gives His supernatural forgiveness to everyone freely, not because anyone deserves such grace, but because He loves everyone and wants all to be restored to Him. So if one is personally asking, “Is God’s forgiveness meant for me?”, then the answer is “yes”.

Seeking Help from Christian Counseling

For many non-believers and even new believers, this concept of God’s forgiveness is very perplexing. It often takes time to wrestle with it in prayer before it becomes clear in the heart, empowering them to forgive the way He wants everyone to.

But in other instances, underlying factors like major depression, anxiety or other mental issues may be clouding the heart and mind, preventing the acceptance of what God has to offer. If this is the case, it helps to speak to a Christian counselor who will use the latest counseling methods to discover what internal issues may be preventing this.

But most importantly, the Christian counselor will connect the person to God through prayer and Scripture so that God’s love and mercy may be felt personally.

If you or a friend you know has been struggling with forgiveness in your life, believing that you are “unforgiveable,” then seek help soon from a Christian counselor. Inner peace may only be achieved once you have been forgiven by God, and have learned how to forgive.

“Forgive,” courtesy of Tony Webster, Flickr.com, CC BY 2.0 License; “Bible,” courtesy of Aaron Burden, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Empty Hands”, Courtesy of Jeremy Yap, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Asking God”, Courtesy of Daniel Reche, Pixabay.com, CC0 License


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