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Why Should I Forgive Others?

Reasons the Bible says we should forgive others

Doug Britton, MFT

Page Summary
Summary: Reasons God says to forgive others — Practical reasons the Bible says forgiving others is good for you as well as good for them.

Part 1 of a 4-part series on “Forgiving Others”

Part 2      Part 3      Part 4

How do you respond when someone wounds you?

When someone’s words or actions hurt you, do you forgive her or him, or do you react with anger, hurt feelings, or similar emotions?

Most of us get mad. We might try to get back at the other person or seek revenge. We might withdraw or feel sorry for ourselves. We might simmer with resentment, thinking we have a right to be angry.

In this Bible study, you will read about a different type of response, one that is written about throughout the Bible—forgiving others. Plus you will read reasons the Bible tells us to forgive.

Forgiveness is a great and sometimes costly gift that can bring healing to your friends, your relationships, and to you personally.

It’s not something that comes naturally. It is a choice—sometimes a difficult choice. In this Bible study, you will read reasons why it’s important to make this choice—the choice to forgive.

Related: Don’t take things personally

Why forgive? Because God says to forgive.

There are many reasons to forgive others. The main one is that God commands us to forgive. Since God tells us to forgive, we must forgive.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32)

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12)

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)

Why forgive? Because Jesus showed us the way.

Jesus was falsely accused, arrested, tortured, and then crucified. As he hung on the cross, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). When you are mistreated, remember Jesus’ example. Ask God to help you extend forgiveness as Christ did.

Why forgive? Because you have been forgiven.

Jesus took all our sins upon himself and offered us new lives when he died on the cross and then rose from the dead. When we remember how much God has forgiven us, it should motivate us to forgive others.

Related: God’s love for you

Why forgive? Because God forgives us as we forgive others.

Jesus could have given no stronger reason to forgive than when he said God will not forgive us if we do not forgive others.

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)

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. (Mark 11:25)

Jesus made the same point when he told a story about the “unmerciful servant” in Matthew 18:23-35 In this parable, a king canceled a huge debt his servant owed him. The servant then turned around and threw another servant into prison because this man owed him a small sum of money. When the king learned about the first servant’s actions, he punished him severely and said:

Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you? (Matthew 18:33)

Why forgive? Because it brings healing to your relationships.

It is inevitable that people—including your best friend, your pastor, your spouse, and your neighbor—will say or do things that wound you from time to time. That’s because no one is perfect and everyone is sometimes impolite, selfish, mean, depressed, angry, tempted, or otherwise messed up.

If we don’t forgive others’ words and actions, we grow bitter or resentful, and our relationships suffer. When we forgive, relationships can heal and grow.

Related: Five steps in conflict resolution

Why forgive? Because it strengthens your ministry.

God has called each one of us to do “good works”—to make a difference in the world for him. When we harbor bitterness in our hearts, we can’t make the difference God intends.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

Why forgive? Because it brings healing to you.

When you forgive, you may think you are giving up your “right” to be angry. What you really are doing is giving up the “right” to be unhappy. In other words, one reason to forgive is that it is just as healing for you as it is for the person you are forgiving.

When you do not forgive, bitterness festers within you, growing and spreading like cancer. As the Bible warns:

See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (Hebrews 12:15)

You may say, “That person doesn’t deserve forgiveness. He would get off too easily.” Or, “I suffered, so now she’s going to suffer.” Although your lack of forgiveness may wound other people, it probably hurts you even more. Not only can it hurt your sense of peace and your walk with God, it can affect your physical health.

Forgiveness helps you break free from self-pity and experience God’s peace. It puts you in a victorious position and removes you from a victim’s position.

Related: Healing life’s hurts

Related: Victory over grumpiness, irritation, and anger

Memory verse

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)

Personal application

1. What are some reasons God says it’s important to forgive? Explain your answer.

2. Have you known someone who refused to forgive something? If so, how did it affect him or her?

3. Have you refused to forgive someone? If so, how did it affect you?

4. Are we supposed to only forgive big things? What about little things people do that annoy us? Explain your answer.

5. What are the key reasons to forgive in this Bible study that motivate you? Explain why these reasons motivate you.

6. How does forgiveness bring healing?

7. Write a prayer asking God to help you choose to forgive others.

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About Doug Britton, MFT

Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)

Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.

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