Do you ever hear something in church that suddenly makes so much sense to you that you can’t get it out of your head? This happened to me with a verse that I’ve never understood, but once I did, I felt moved to act upon it which prompted me to explore stories of forgiveness in the Bible.
And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8 NKJV)
This is the verse I never understood. It is a call to action. To love one another and in so doing you will forgive all trespasses against you.
Have you ever had trouble with forgiving someone? I have. Unforgiveness is a disease that will destroy you from the inside. It eats away at you until it consumes your peace and joy.
BUT love forgives. Isn’t that the basis of our Christian faith? God so loved the world…
It was like I was whacked over the head. If we allow God to work in our hearts and fill us with His love, then we can show that love to others- including those who wrong us. I am not talking about outward acts of kindness here, I mean from our heart, sincere forgiveness and compassion toward everyone.
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Stories of Forgiveness in the Bible
When I think of stories of forgiveness in the Bible, the first one that comes to mind is the story of Joseph and his brothers.
Joseph was one of the 12 sons of Jacob. Can you imagine the competition amongst 12 brothers? Anyway, Joseph is his father’s favorite and Jacob makes no secret about it.
To make matters worse, God gives Joseph dreams about his brothers as well as his father bowing down to him. Joseph has no idea what this means and tells his family his dreams.
Moved with jealousy, Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery and tell their father that he was killed by a wild animal.
Joseph finds himself in Egypt and his life is not easy as a slave, but God is with him and everything he does prospers.
From slave to head slave to being thrown into prison to running the prison, Joseph’s life is a series of hopes and destroyed longings. Finally, we see the purpose of all of his sufferings when God gives Pharoah a dream.
It is known of Joseph that he has the gift of interpreting dreams and he is brought before Pharoah. God reveals to Joseph the meaning of the dream and Joseph is given a high position of power.
Ok, sorry for the quick summary (I know I missed a dozen of teaching points in this story) but I’m trying to stay focused on stories of forgiveness in the Bible and the forgiveness part is at the END of the story LOL
God had given Pharoah the dream to warn him of a great famine that would be coming in seven years. Joseph is in charge of saving a percentage of each year’s crops so that Egypt will not starve during the years of drought.
Jacob and Joseph’s brothers and their families receive no such warning from God and when the famine strikes are forced to travel to Egypt to purchase food from their supply.
And you know who they come before and bow to?
They don’t recognize him but he does them! After a series of events, Joseph reveals to his brothers who he is. I can imagine how afraid they were. They had sold him into slavery and now all these years later he is an important ruler in the mighty nation of Egypt. He could have them all put to death for what they did to him.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph; does my father still live?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence. And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt.
But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 45:3-8)
Truly, I am amazed at Joseph’s attitude. What a wonderful example God has given us in this story of forgiveness!
Bible Parables about Forgiveness
Some of our favorite stories about forgiveness in the Bible come in the form of parables. These are important teaching tools for both our own hearts and those of our kids.
The Prodigal Son
The Prodigal Son is probably the most well known Bible parable about forgiveness. It is found in Luke 15.
A father had two sons and the youngest begged that he give him his inheritance early. So he did.
The son soon left his father and went to a far away country. He spent all of his inheritance foolishly with sinful living.
After his money was spent, there came a famine in the land and the son was in need. He began working in the fields and was so hungry that the pig feed began to look good to him.
Coming to his senses, he decides to go back home. His attitude is humble and he is prepared to ask forgiveness and a job as a servant.
“And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry. (Luke 15:20-24)
The father did not ask questions, he did not point fingers or remind his son of his sin. He ran, fell on his neck, and kissed him. Forgiveness is a beautiful act of humility and love.
Parable of Two Debtors
The Parable of Two Debtors begins with the beautiful story of a woman and her outpouring of love for Jesus.
Jesus is eating at the home of a Pharisee named Simon, when a woman described as a sinner, came and wept at Jesus feet. She anoints his feet with oil, all the while wiping his feet with her hair and kissing them.
Have you ever seen such humility? I tear up every time I read of her unrestrained love.
Of course, Simon has a problem with her being there and her outward expression of gratitude and humility. He thinks to himself that if Jesus was a prophet than he would know what kind of woman this is.
In all his wisdom, Jesus understands the man’s thoughts and tells him the Parable of Two Debtors.
“There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” (Luke 7:41:42)
Of course, Simon replies that the one with the greater debt will love him more.
And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head.
You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil.
Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”
48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (Luke 7:43-50)
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
One more parable about forgiveness. The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant tends to fill us with a bit of righteous indignation, but keep in mind that Jesus is speaking to all of us. You have been forgiven of the debt of sin and welcomed into God’s kingdom, we have no right to hold another’s sin over them.
Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.
But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’
Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’
And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done.
Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Matthew 18:23-35)
Does that last verse put a pit in your stomach? It does mine!
Want a fictional story about forgiveness? Check out “Learn Forgiveness Now with Daughters of the Northern Shores”.
What is Forgiveness in Christianity?
Ok, what is forgiveness in Christianity?
Mirriam-Webster defines forgive:
1: to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) : PARDON forgive one’s enemies
2a: to give up resentment of or claim to requital, for forgive an insult
b: to grant relief from payment of, forgive a debt
To pardon, to stop feeling resentment against, to grant relief from.
For us, as Christians, we have been forgiven of our debt of sin. We are born with a sinful nature and wrong God daily because of it. We need to find forgiveness and right ourselves with Him through repentance.
Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity
And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?
He does not retain His anger forever,
Because He delights in mercy.
He will again have compassion on us,
And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins
Into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18-19)
This forgiveness is a direct link to God’s love for His creation. When sin entered the world, we were separated from Him. He is a holy and righteous being, unable to be in the presence of sin. Immediately He tells us of his plan to send a redeemer to bring us back into communion with Him.
Enter His son, Jesus Christ.
What Does Jesus Teach about Forgiveness?
Forgiveness is an important concept and Jesus speaks of it multiple times. Besides the stories of forgiveness in the parables listed above, check out more of what Jesus teaches about forgiveness.
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” (Matthew 18:15)
Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22)
“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25-26)
Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4)
And don’t forget, forgiveness is in the Lord’s prayer.
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13)
Summing Up Stories of Forgiveness
From verses to stories, to parables, to definitions, to the teachings of Jesus, we can see how important forgiveness is throughout the Bible. Perhaps, one of these verses or stories of forgiveness has brought on an “ah-ha” moment for you like I mentioned I experienced recently.
I would love for you to share your thoughts on forgiveness in the comments below! What verses or stories about forgiveness speak to you? Do you have a testimony about the healing power of forgiveness?