The Faces Of Forgiveness

Faces of Forgiveness - AdobeStock_119743918A few weeks ago, we were talking with a good friend who made a comment that really got us thinking. He said he could not forgive a particular person because that person had not asked him for forgiveness. Are we held back from forgiveness in this way? What are the rules about forgiveness? And who exactly are we supposed to forgive? This made for some lively discussion in the car on the way home.

Out of that discussion grew an intense desire to find out all we could about forgiveness. We figured if we struggled over the issues of forgiveness, others must as well.

Starting with the basics: what does forgiveness mean?

We found that forgiveness has two faces. First, it means “to cancel a debt, to pardon or remit guilt.” That is what we had always thought it meant. But there is a second definition of forgiveness —to relinquish resentment against the debtor. This is harder to understand. We can cancel a debt, but how do we cancel a feeling?

Did you know the Bible does not define forgiveness? But it certainly gives us a model —God Himself. God cancels the debt and pardons those who confess and repent. 1 John 1:9 states this plainly,

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

2 Peter 3:9 says,

He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Throughout Scripture it is clear that if we repent, God cancels our debt and pardons us; if we do not repent, He does not pardon. His righteousness demands repentance and cleansing before restoration. So God does not always forgive according to the first definition of forgiveness. He forgives only those who repent.

Relinquishing Resentment

But what about the second definition —the part about relinquishing resentment? God always forgives in this way. He never holds resentment or bitterness against anyone, whether they repent or not. Some take Jesus’ words from the cross, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34), as a blanket kind of forgiveness for all people.

But the forgiveness the Father extended to those mocking and jeering beneath the cross could not have been pardon for their sin in crucifying Jesus.That’s because later in Acts 3 they are still held accountable. YOU handed him over to be killed (verse 13). YOU disowned the Holy and Righteous One (verse 14).

As Jesus, suffering incredibly, looked down upon His tormentors, He refused to hold resentment against them. Can you picture the Father watching these same people crying out for His Son’s blood? Yet He held no bitterness toward them. Can you imagine that kind of forgiveness?

What do these two faces of forgiveness mean to us in our struggle to forgive?

To read the rest of this article (which we HIGHLY recommend) click onto the link below:



Another article that might help you in this journey was written by Gary Thomas. Please click onto the link below to read:


“It is up to you to do everything within your power to see that hardness does not find a way to move into your heart, because bad things are sure to happen if you don’t.

Happy is the man who is always reverent, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity‘ (Proverbs 28:14).

“When you harden your heart, you have hardened it toward God as well. This is dangerous ground to be standing on.

“Don’t trust your heart, because it can grow hard over something you believe is completely justified.

He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered‘ (Proverbs 28:26).

“God sees hardness of heart as never being justified. That’s because when you receive the Lord, He sends the Holy Spirit to live in your heart and soften it.

Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh‘” (Ezekiel 11:19). (Stormy Omartian, from Praying Through the Deeper Issues of Marriage)

This article was compiled by Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International.

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Filed under: Bitterness and Forgiveness

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4 responses to “The Faces Of Forgiveness

  1. (USA)  We read in Matthew 6:12 that we are to ask God to forgive us as we forgive those who have wronged us. As I see it we should always forgive, reguardless if that forgiveness is recieved. For one, God tells us that bitterness will eat us up, (and anyone who has had bitterness knows that it does just that) and two God told us not to let the sun set on our anger, for anger is a mighty foothold for the devil. Ephesians 4:26-27 tells us this is not an easy task to achieve, (especilly if the other party does not want your forgiveness) but none the less, we should do it because we as the church are called out to be diffrent than the world, and to be a reflection of God.

  2. (USA)  People confuse forgive with forget. I was abandoned by my parents at 5. My step mother was an angel sent by God. She was the best thing that could have happened to me but as a child, I yearned for my parents who just didn’t want me. My beloved stepmom and I call her “Mother” said to me “Baby, forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. It does not mean you forget or condone but that you give up your RIGHT to get them back. It will all come back to them” and it has.

    Still hard to put away so much pain and those things change you forever just like the adultery commited against my family. Not just me. That is what the devil does, destroy families. God even verifies this by saying “Vengence is mine, I will repay.” If we forgave and it meant forget, He would not have had to say that.

    There are many things so much easier to get over and they are so far behind me but this is the ultimate betrayal. The ultimate act of evil and selfishness, which is the devil’s trademark. Do not be so hard on yourselves for still harboring human emotions on it that God gave us. Jesus wept over the betrayal of a friend and He is God. What are we to do.

    Seminaries teach to sweep it all under the rug as qucikly as possible. Blame it on the woman whipping her into feelings of shame and failure and “Pastoral” counselors will do just that.

    You were not meeting his needs (let me tell you about not having my needs met as he used me for a porta potty 9.4 years since sex had been enjoyable for me. Slept on the couch, playing with his I Touch, Panicked to cover the PC screen everytime I walked into the room and still says it was nothing. I will always believe it was porn but he denies it. Refused to wear his ring, even started dipping tobacco. She smokes so he’d be in the smoking area at break with her. Carried her to lunch in my car and came in from work daily with so much hatred seething on his face because he’d spent the day slandering me to her. He didn’t want me, he wanted anything but me.)

    We should look better, lose weight, cook better, keep a better hosue, be a better listener… Chrislam, the new religion. Treating your wives like garbage all while claiming Christ but no one will EVER change who God is and He is clear on how a man should treat his WIFE!

    My husband has tossed a few verses at me hoping it will magically obliterate al the pain to no avail. He knows it is God refering to how God handles things. That God speaks of the sea of forgetfulness and love covers a multitude of sins. Again, He is God. I’m just me.

    God warns against adultery and lists it with murder and all other horrendous acts because it is utter destruction and I don’t care how many times we watch another go through it, you still have no idea until it is your devastated life and soul. It is a physical maifestation on the body and that’s exactly what it’s supposed to do. God says any woman that goes after a married man is a whore. He uses that word 12 times just in that one section of Proverbs and “ALL scripture is profitable for reproof and correction…, 2 Timothy 3~16 God says she is a sow in excremement and she wipes her mouth and says “I have done no wickedness.’ And that the man is one with her and he is a dog licking up his own vomit. It is all there in the King James!

    There is nothing romantic or sexy about any of that. My husband admits it was so filthy as was she. That was my husband, my own flesh in the Holiest of Unions God has. He destroyed it all and it cannot be reversed. He gave everything that belonged to God, then me and he refused to give any of it to me. Eve carried my Christian flag to her house and put it up with her but expects me to believe he was just trying to score. I never will. I resent him coming back here as much as the affair. The entire town is laughing at him and he knows that. He could not perform looking at her, says it was like a baloon with a pin the second he saw her nude yet he proceeded and even tried again. Court revealed she has STD’s and herpes. No protection. That is given into a reprobate mind.

    I know one that carried on for 5 years resulting in a child and she tells her husband “I’m sorry, it was a mistake.” I can see that he has not come to terms with it, may never do so but he is so desperate to keep her he doesn’t want to see what it really is and it’s so clear to everyone else. The cheating couple wants to be together but can’t. The “wife” of the adultering man is a dear friend who has helped me so much. She was so good to that “chick” even giving her the baby shower…

    Grief is a chunk missing that can never be replaced. You can see it in the face of those suffering. The shaking and breathlessness are all there. No one has the right to tell another how to handle theirs either. You may recover in 6 months but that’s not my timeline and God doesn’t put a timleine on any of it.

    I don’t want my husband and he knows that but will do anything to convince me to stay with him. It cannot be undone and I doubt another man could love me enough to heal it but the one who did this all sure cannot.

    I reflect on all John Walsh said of his son’s death. In the middle of that interview he had to leave to vomit dealng with the details of what the guy did to his precious boy. But if you do not do the hard part, it is like putting a band aid over all the dirt and infection making it systemic and infecting every inch of your body and soul. Not comfortable to do but it has to be done in order to really heal and I think God gives us Job as an example of what to expect. 3 years before He felt/saw God again.

    Prayers for everyone hurting. I don’t have all the answers and come here hoping to see something that helps me in my recovery or say something that helps another. You are not alone and God is true to His Word. Love and prayers ><>

  3. (ZIMBABWE) In a marriage when a spouse cheats, the other spouese is hurt and has to forgive? It’s so hard to forgive and becoz God says forgive as I forgave you, you are left with the hard task to learn to forgive. It’s so hard. My question is what happens to the cheater? He walks free and likely no guilt, probably goes “phew!” The hurt one is left with the task to forgive so that they remain in the love of God or else God will be far from them in their unforgiveness. The cheater is likely to cheat again and you forgive again. I’m troubled by these thoughts. What should I do? It’s happening to me. I’m the hurt one.

    1. Sylvia, I’m so sorry you’re facing this. Nothing breaks the heart of a spouse more than having it torn apart by a cheating spouse. I grieve with you that you are having to be put in this place. It’s shameless what your husband did to you.

      As far as forgiveness, yes, forgiving someone is terribly difficult. And it would be even more so, however, if it involved what you describe. I don’t believe it does. Please prayerfully read through the quotes in the “Bitterness and Forgiveness” topic, as well as other articles. I believe as you read them you will see a bigger picture of what forgiveness is and isn’t. It’s a journey to being released from future pain. Inevitably, forgiveness releases YOU from the prison that unforgiveness brings. It doesn’t excuse, erase, or condone what the spouse did. It also doesn’t mean that you give it and then instantly start trusting him –trust is something you earn. It also doesn’t mean that you can’t grieve, get angry and deeply… as seriously as it is possible, discuss this with your husband. Don’t skip those steps. But ultimately and especially, take your pain and anger to God and release it to Him. Sort it out with Him, asking Him for wisdom on what to do, each step of the way, with your husband because of what he did against you and your marriage.

      Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you go on with life as if nothing has happened. Something DID happen and there needs to be important matters sorted out, truth to be revealed, and changed behavior to be put in place and lived out before reconciliation can begin. Forgiveness and human reconciliation are separate steps. Please read more on this with an open mind. I think that you will see that forgiveness is not cheap grace. It’s bigger than that. And what it ultimately does, as you walk this journey to forgiveness, is it frees YOU. You’ll understand more as you read. I hope so and pray so.

      I pray that the eyes of your mind and heart will be enlightened. I hope with all my heart that you will fight bitterness, put up the appropriate boundaries with your husband so this type of behavior is not being trampled even more through your life and heart in the future. I also hope that eventually you will feel the freedom that God can give you in this journey. Yes, even when you forgive it is difficult, but it’s less so than allowing bitterness and unforgiveness to grow in your heart and life. I pray for you Sylvia and hope better for you in the future. “May the Lord direct your heart into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5)