What Is Forgiveness?

Tammy De Ruyter

READ : Colossians 1:1-23

[Jesus] . . . in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (v. 14)

The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness as “to grant free pardon and to give
up all claim on account of an offence or debt.” Good sounding words, but what exactly does
that mean? Most of us have some understanding of forgiveness, but is it an understanding
that affects our lives? Does it impact those around us? Does it draw us closer into
relationship with Jesus?

Our culture has reduced the “apology” into a justification for wrongdoing. Politicians
regularly appear on television to apologize for “errors in judgment.” Sins are airbrushed
as “mistakes.” A quick “I’m sorry” and everyone is expected to overlook the offense and
carry on with life. And often that is what happens.

A biblical understanding of forgiveness, however, will deeply influence our actions and
relationships. Forgiveness, according to Scripture, demands that we look squarely at our
sins and assume full responsibility for our actions. Only then can we ask God to forgive
us. We, in turn, have the responsibility to do likewise when we are sinned against. C. S.
Lewis writes, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has
forgiven the inexcusable in you.” Faith is living with the understanding of how much
Christ has forgiven us, then turning around and forgiving someone else. It’s not easy, not
by a long shot, but it is life-giving, God-honoring, work. Is there someone you need to
forgive today?

PRAYER

Thank you, Father, for forgiving us. Give us the strength to do the same.