{Forgiveness} What Biblical Forgiveness is NOT

Posted on: August 30th, 2012 by Laurie Coombs 5 Comments

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Along the way, speaking to those around me, I’ve come across many misconceptions about forgiveness. The word forgiveness has been tainted by culture. Biblical forgiveness, in fact, differs from the forgiveness that the world offers, and I believe many misconceptions are birthed out of these cultural falsehoods.

Yet, before we explore what Biblical forgiveness looks like, I’d like to look at what it is not.

Biblical Forgiveness is NOT:

Justifying/diminishing/approving of/enabling sin or saying that the wrong committed was in any way acceptable or okay

What happened to you or what happened to me will never be okay. Sins were committed, and Biblically, sin is never justifiable. In fact, the wage of sin is death. Yet, while no sin will ever be justified, all sin is forgivable. Simply look to the cross and you’ll see the son man dying a bloody death, suffering like no one before or since. It is here that you’ll see the gravity of sin. Yet, on that cross, Jesus paid the price for all sin. Yours, mine, and even those of the one who hurt you.

Waiting for the offender to apologize or to come to a place of repentance

Our forgiveness does not hinge upon the action of others. Looking to Jesus as our example, we see Him hanging on the cross, saying “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). This was said regarding the unrepentant men presiding over His death.

Releasing the offender from the consequences of their actions

Forgiveness is not a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card. We all must face the consequences of our actions and forgiving the offender does not abdicate them of their responsibility for what happened. In my case, while I have forgiven Anthony, he still remains in prison, serving a life sentence as a consequence of his actions.

Forgetting what happened

The world tells us to “forgive and forget” but is this really possible? I don’t think so. Honestly, I will never forget that my dad is no longer with me due to the thoughtless act of one man. Yet, though I will never forget this fact, having forgiven, I do not hold any animosity toward Anthony, and through God’s grace, I now pray good for him.

Suppressing your feelings for the sake of peace

Suppressing your feelings can offer a false sense of forgiveness, yet you’ll find that sooner or later, these feelings have a way of rising back up to the surface. Emotions are good. God created us, emotions in all. So, I encourage you to allow yourself to embrace your emotions. It’s okay to feel anger, sadness, or any other emotion. BUT do not let your emotions drive you or lead you to sin. As Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry and do not sin.” Along your journey toward forgiveness, you’ll find that Jesus will slowly heal you of these emotions.

A one time event

Forgiveness is a process. It begins with prayer, and it is achieved through continual fellowship with the Lord, leading you on your own, unique journey. Along the way, you may find that you will have to recommit to your decision to forgive.

Placing trust in the offender

We are commanded to forgive. But at times, immediately trusting the person who harmed you may be foolish. Trust is something that is built over time. If this person is someone close to you. I believe it would be God’s will for you to move toward this place of trust, yet seeking God’s counsel, wisdom, and discernment is of paramount importance in these matters.

Primarily for the benefit of “offender” 

I’ve heard many objections to me forgiving Anthony from those close to me due to the fact that they believe that my forgiveness is for the benefit of Anthony. Now, in my case, God used me to bring Anthony to repentance and redemption, but primarily, when Jesus asks us to forgive, He is trying to free us of our past and allow us to experience the peace and joy that He died for us to have.


God calls us to forgive. He does not always call us to reconcile. Forgiveness takes one person––YOU. Reconciliation takes both or all parties involved, each being repentant and being willing to work on building or rebuilding a relationship.

If you have yet to read about the what God had done through my journey toward forgiveness, be sure to read my About page or my post Bounty Through Obedience! Join me next week for my post on What Biblical Forgiveness IS!

{Biblical forgiveness is NOT the same as the forgiveness that the world offers.}

How have you been challenged to forgive those who have hurt you?

Share in the comments.

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  • Kasia

    Oh Laurie this topic has really been weighing on my soul, however you already know that. Thank you, thank you for the simple yet poignant words. Heavenly Father really is working on me with this because over the past week that seems to be the topic behind all the talks I have listened to. Lots of love to you.

  • Forgiving and forgetting, suppressing your feelings, reconciliation. These areas you have covered are very pertinent to me. I also cannot understand how people expect you to forget as we do have memories and yet that is exactly what some people have said I should do if I have truly forgiven. Also reconciliation I agree does not always mean seeing someone again because there are situations this would be dangerous for ones own safety. I am glad you covered all the areas you have in this post.

    • Exactly. It’s important to note that while we will never forget, if we submit our wounds to Jesus, He faithfully heals us, thereby, allowing us to see the situation differently (more through the lens of the gospel). He brings us understanding and allows us to lay our biases down enough to gain perspective as the the whys and the hows of what happened. As far as reconciliation goes, while God does not always call us to this, there are times when He does, so be sure to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit on this one and allow Him to lead you wherever He wills! Blessings and prayers, my dear sister!