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Do I Have to Forgive to be Forgiven?

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Receiving forgiveness is incredible, overwhelming, freeing . . . like refreshing water soaking into the crusty, cracked ground of an aching soul.

But granting forgiveness . . . tough, brutal, near impossible for some. We gladly receive it, but struggle to give it.

Jesus said, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15

Does this mean we can lose our salvation if we don’t forgive others? Absolutely not.

  • Our salvation is a free gift from God. It does not require works or performance of any kind. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
  • Jesus expended everything on the cross to rescue us from God’s punishment. His efforts were completely sufficient. (Colossians 1:19-22)
  • We’re safe and secure. That can’t be taken away. (John 10:27-29)

So what does this passage mean?

Our ability to forgive others is based on our awareness of the fact that we’ve been forgiven much. When we sincerely recognize and appreciate what God has done for us, it’s absolutely impossible to refuse to forgive others.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

When we nestle close to the heart of God, he always lets us know what’s important to him. He changes us . . . makes us more like him.

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32

In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus points out the fact that those who are truly repentant – truly rescued – will always progress toward forgiveness because they recognize what God has done for them. They have experienced his forgiveness, and are becoming more like him as they live in relationship with him everyday.

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:36

If a person doesn’t progress toward forgiveness, it may be evidence that they aren’t living in an intimate relationship with God. They may not have:

  • Fully understood their personal need for God’s forgiveness
  • Grieved their own mistakes and how their rebellion impacts God
  • Turned away from a life lived their way instead of God’s way
  • Been able to appreciate God’s forgiveness because they haven’t truly received it themselves.

Forgiving is letting go of the offense. Not forgetting, but forgiving.

If we do that, does it mean we allow the other person to get away with what they did to us?

Forgiveness isn’t about the other person who has violated us in some way. It isn’t about paybacks.

It’s about you. You making a choice . . . choosing to let it go . . . taking the keys and freeing yourself from a prison of bitterness.

Satan wants you to nurse that offense. He’ll remind you of it in a million ways. Years wasted bearing the burden, carrying the weight of someone else’s actions. It just isn’t worth it.

Bitterness robs you of your life. It’s drudge that drags you down. You take others down with you in the process. Look around you. How is the offense you’re nursing impacting your children, your spouse, your extended family and friends? Isn’t it time to set them free too? Hebrews 12:14-15


Forgiveness is about you choosing to be like Jesus.

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” Colossians 3:12-13

Is it right to want someone else to pay for their offenses when Christ didn’t make you pay for yours?

“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'” Luke 23:34

Forgiveness from the heart is possible with the power of God that lives in you.

“Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

“. . . all things are possible to him who believes.” Mark 9:22-24

When you allow the peace of Christ to rule in your heart, you’ll find forgiveness. When you find forgiveness, you’ll find peace . . . in your relationships.

So do you have to forgive to be forgiven? The answer is this: When you’re forgiven, you’ll forgive.

What is there about forgiveness that’s difficult for you?

Fighting the good fight with you . . .


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  1. Susie says:

    How very right you are in that we are commanded to forgive others as Jesus forgives us! When I put forgiveness in the light of God forgiving me for all of my transgressions it makes it so much easier to forgive others of their offenses towards me. I don’t know if other people are like this but, I find it harder to forgive myself than to forgive others. I have to remind myself that, in essence, refusing to forgive myself is also a sin because then, I am placing myself beyond the Grace that is Jesus. He hung on that cross for ALL of our sins and none are too great that His mercy cannot cover it. Amazing! Love you.

    • LMB says:

      Love your thoughts. I think so many of us struggle with forgiving ourselves. His love and grace are amazing and more than enough to cover our sins. He is so good! Thanks for sharing and being vulnerable with your thoughts. I’m sure it will benefit others who read this.

  2. Carey says:

    I love your perspective here Lisa… the ability to forgive is more of an evidence of truly being forgiven than it is a litmus test of whether we can be forgiven. Wonderful exposition of the passage… God’s gift to your readers today!

  3. Keri says:

    Love this….something I struggle with and pray for daily. <3 you!

    • LMB says:

      Love you too Keri! I know you’ve been through a ton!!! Forgiveness is possible but only through a powerful God who can rework your heart. I know this from experience. Take heart!

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