“Forgiveness”: A Christian Perspective

Forgiveness is an important concept to Christianity. It is not only a concept that is important to theology it is also a framework that is important to individuals, families, the community, and multiple fields of study including sociology and psychology. Often, forgiveness is a theme that is found throughout the old and new testament. Preachers and Sunday school teachers encourage congregations and the community to forgive. Although it is a difficult challenge for many, God through His son encourages forgiveness. However, when applying forgiveness into the theological framework, there are various perceptions and understandings up for analysis. Forgiveness is not only a form of freedom and purification. It is associated with baptism, repentance, and the requirement to forgive others. Through forgiveness, people learn to become better Christians, better people, and closer to God’s glory. Forgiveness is encouraged by the word and through the relationship with God. Therefore, one must understand the role of forgiveness from a theological standpoint. Although practicing forgiveness provides interpersonal strength, boost morality, and is encouraged by the Christian faith, forgiveness is a fundamental concept of Christianity through the blood of Jesus Christ and atonement from sin.

Forgiveness Defined

The dictionary defines forgiveness as, “to pardon or to cease to feel resentment against (a person); overlook debt or trespass; to be merciful or forgiving”.[1] Although this definition of forgiveness is easily understood, many theologians define the concept of forgiveness differently. It is important to understand these differing definitions. How one defines forgiveness can shape the individual, their relationships with others, the community, the church, and their relationship with God. Within the theological framework, forgiveness is related to the Doctrine of Forgiveness. It is associated with those who practice forgiveness by pardoning others from guilt, wrongdoing, sin, transgression, or offence. Thus, when one practices forgiveness, no matter how large the wrongful act, the transgression must be pardoned. The end result of forgiveness is that the offender is exempt from punishment or retribution for the sin committed.

Yet various theologians alongside the different Christian denominations have varying understanding and interpretation of this concept. While some theologians see forgiveness as “purely a gift without conditions in some definitions, while in others it depends on the conditions being fulfilled by the guilty party”. [2] Regardless of these different viewpoints, forgiveness in theology is recognized as a pardon that is unconditional. There are no strings attached with forgiveness. Individuals release any hostility, anger, resentment, sadness, and all negative feelings from others asking for nothing in return. There is no penance or dues to be made from the offender. Forgiveness then is best understood as, “the opposite of being treated as we deserve to be treated… preemptive justice, karma, reaping what you sowed, moral legalism, making amends for the past, negotiations, conditions, exchange”.[3]

Importance to Christianity

Forgiveness is a fundamental framework of Christianity. Its significance is observed through crucifixion of Christ. “Jesus sacrifice was a way to restore human kind to God in the only way possible”.[4] Christ was the only man to walk this Earth and never sin. As the Son of God, he gave a shining light and example of how to live one’s life through faith and righteousness. He was innocent, guiltless, and lived by the word of God. Through his death, Jesus sacrificed his life for the world. Jesus then paid a debt large enough to save the world and every living soul within in it. Thus, Jesus paid the consequence for the sins of all of mankind. Examples of these can be seen in Isaiah 53:5-12 where it states that, “he was wounded for our transgression, he was bruised for our inequities”.[5] Furthermore, in I Peter 2:24 it tells us that, “his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree”. The sacrifice of his life allows all sinners to receive forgiveness without penalty, service, or debt. His blood spilled, all of God’s children can receive forgiveness. I Peter 3:18 tells us, “Christ died once for our sins. An innocent person died for those who are guilty. Christ did this to bring you to God”.

Forgiveness is also an important foundation to Christianity as it relates to sin and one’s relationship with God. Throughout scripture, it is learned that sin is a crime against God. To sin is to turn away from God, his glory, and the path of righteousness. This is observed in Psalm 51:4 where it states, “against thee, the only have I sinned”.  Due to this, sin is a disassociation with God. The Father condemns those who sin through promised hellfire and damnation. There are consequences for sinners and those who are unwilling to forgive. However, pardoning one’s sins through forgiveness is to restore the relationship and to become one with God. “All believers are made alive with Christ by means of God’s forgiveness” (Col 2:13-14).

The Word of God

As iterated earlier, forgiveness is a theme found throughout biblical scripture and a significant theme in Christianity. Scholars indicate the concept of forgiveness is observed throughout the Old and New Testament. However, it is a fundamental theme stressed throughout the gospels. The term forgiveness occurs almost a hundred times through the books of Matthew, Mark, and John. “In the gospels the concept of forgiveness is discussed in relation to the Son of man who has the power to forgive sins and the community of faith who must forgive in order to receive God’s forgiveness”.[6] The most noted and recognized concept of forgiveness is found in the Lord’s Prayer. It also connects the theme of forgiveness to the relationship with God.

In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus offers guidance and instructs the disciples on how to pray. He teaches us to ask God to “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (9). This simple line in prayer tells a lot about the concept of forgiveness, the relationship with others, and the relationship with God. In order for receive God’s forgiveness, one must also forgive others. This one sentence sets the tone for forgiveness signifying a strong link between one’s relationship with God and one’s relationship with others. The theme is based on the foundation that, “because you have been forgiven, you can and must forgive”.[7] Most importantly this puts conditions on God’s forgiveness. Without pardoning the offenses of others, God will to not forgive the sinner of their transgression, ultimately renouncing the sinner from the kingdom of heaven.

In the scripture of the New Testament, God is the only one with the power to forgive others from sin. Without offering forgiveness to God, one remains in the life of sin. This can be seen in Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5-21, however Matthew 9:2-3 emphasizes this most when the scribes called Jesus a blasphemy when he forgives the sins of a man stricken with palsy. Even then, Rabbi’s and scribes recognized that only God could pardon sins. Consequently, “biblical forgiveness involves letting go of bitterness and revenge and graciously giving pardon to those who ask”.[8] Jesus encouraged forgiveness to be preached to the world throughout the Church. This was to be the foundation of the Church. Not only to encourage love, harmony, and cohesiveness but also due to its significance to one’s relationship with God. This is can be observed as “forgiveness defines the Church; there is no worship apart from forgiveness” (Matt 5:23-24).

Repentance of Sin and Purification

Repentance is directly associated with the relinquishment of sin, a path to righteousness, and the promise of eternal life. “God’s removal of our sin and guilt (His forgiveness) is conditional upon our repentance and faith in Christ”.[9] Through repentance of sin one is able to receive forgiveness from God. This is expressed in Psalms where it says, “I will confess my transgression to the Lord and You forgive the iniquity of my sin” (32:5). As a result repentance of sin is related to forgiveness. Asking God to forgive one’s sins is an offer of repentance. Without this pardon, individuals are not promised the kingdom of heaven. It thus develops the relationship between repentance and forgiveness. “If mankind was to be saved, he must first be released from the penalty of sin”.[10]

The result of repentance and granting of forgiveness is purification. It states this in I John 1:19 which say, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. Repentance through forgiveness gives Christians the power to be free from sin. Once forgiven, through this pardon God promises to “remember our sins no more” (Heb 10:17). In this manner, those who once were sinners are now free from sin. It garnishes us from suffering the consequences of our wrong doing and any obligations. “No longer viewed in his disfavor, the justified person is viewed as a friend of God”.[11] God is a faithful and just God, through the word he promises to cleanse the sinner upon the repentance of sin. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, God will forgive any believer who confesses their sin and receive redemption through prayer.

Despite this concept, various denominations have different beliefs associated with the repentance of sin. While Christians ascertain that forgiveness is granted through prayer and direct communication with God, Catholics receive repentance differently. Sin is redeemed through penance. This ideology originated in the doctrines from scripture. This was founded when “Jesus gave the disciples the power to forgive if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them”.[12]Consequently, the Catholic Church teaches that forgiveness is only received by confessing to priests. Priests are viewed as representatives of God and modern disciples as it relates to the Bible and Christianity. Therefore priests are not only the messengers of the word of God, but also an acting judge. This concept is realized in the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. The article of Trent cites that, “weather of announcing the gospel or of declaring that sins are forgiven, but is after the manner of a judicial act, whereby sentence is pronounced by the priest as judge”.[13] As such, Catholics must pay a penance to be pardoned according to the church. Or rather, penance must be paid for the Catholic Church to pardon worshipers from sin. This is in significant contrast with Christians, who are encouraged to receive pardon, restoration, and cleansing.

Freedom

Forgiveness offers various opportunities. It sustains one’s relationship with God and all of his promises; it pardons sin without pay, and cleanses the soul from sin. However, forgiveness also offers freedom to God’s people.[14] Forgiveness pardons every one of their history and sins from the past. Individuals are liberated form their past transgressions and the power that it has over them. This way, Christians are “free from the past and future of God’s kingdom”.[15] Through forgiveness, one has the ability to remake history. When one asks for forgiveness, forgiveness is granted from repentance of sin. Once forgive, all sins from the past is washed away. The soul is rejuvenated and made clean from any transgressions. He or she is free from their mistakes and able to start fresh and anew in their life with God. It also reestablishes this relationship and His promise made in scripture.

Baptism

“The bath of baptism dramatically enacts the free and unconditional gift of forgiveness by which God receives human beings into the fellowship of his own life”.[16] Baptism is an ordinance that enables followers to become pure and one with God. Through baptism, one receives repentance of sins and granted forgiveness. This is observed in Acts 2:38 where it states “repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins”. It provides a path to righteousness and commits one’s relationship with Jesus the Son of God. Connected through baptism, the sinner is no longer a sinner but a child of God and able to receive the promises of God. Through baptism one can walk with newness of spirit and in life found in forgiveness from the heavenly father. This is further iterated throughout the gospels of the New Testament. Mark 1:4 and Luke 3:3 recognize baptism as a repentance and forgiveness from acts of sin.

Despite this, some scholars do not agree. They suggest that “Greek construction the washing away of sins is connected with calling upon his name not with being baptized”.[17] Although baptism offers redemption and forgiveness, this is not the sole purpose of the sacrament. Instead some indicate that water baptism is a symbol recognizing the life of Jesus. Baptized in Jesus name, it is the worshiper’s commitment to Jesus and the Christian faith. It is also viewed as a “shared experience of death and resurrection”.[18] Although there are conflicting views on the relationship between pardon of sin and baptismal sacrament, the underlying meaning remains the same. Baptism offers a “connection with and are portrayed in the text as instrumental in the act of forgiving sins”.[19]

Conclusion

This study provides research about the relationship between religion and forgiveness. They designed a study that analyzes the important role that religion plays in the lives of others and how much religion and forgiveness can influence an individual’s personality and characteristics. Forgiveness as a method of reconciliation in dual relationships. It analyzes the methodology and application of forgiveness with an end result of reconciliation. Everyday Christians must live by the word of God. This includes forgiving others. Losing forgiveness will lose our relationship God and the ability to enter the kingdom of heaven. . Forgiveness is not only a form of freedom and purification; it is also associated with baptism, repentance, and the requirement to forgive others. Through forgiveness, people learn to become better Christians, better people, and closer to God’s glory. Forgiveness is encouraged by the word and through the relationship with God.

 

 

References

Theology for Beginners (19): Forgiveness(2004). Religion, forgiveness, and adjustment in older adulthood. Retrieved from http://www.faith-theology.com/2006/10/theology-for-beginners-19-forgiveness.html

 Forgiveness and Reconciliation. (2012). Boston Theological Institute. Retrieved from: http://www.bostontheological.org/forgiveness_and_reconciliation.html

Anum, E., Kuwornu-Adjaottor, J. (2010). NEW TESTAMENT CONCEPTS OF FORGIVENESS IN THE GOSPELS. American Journal Of Religion21(2), 175-184. Retrieved from: http://www.biblicaltheology.com/Research/AnumE01.pdf

Wilson, D. (2002). GOD’S DEFINITION OF FORGIVENESS. Pastoral Psychology50(3), 147-152. Retrieved from: http://gpts.edu/resources/documents/katekomen/Forgiveness-1.pdf

Johnson, R. (1987).TOWARD THEOOGICAL FORGIVENESS. American Psycological Association82(6), 956-974. Retrieved from http://gpts.edu/resources/documents/katekomen/Forgiveness-1.pdf

Saunders, P. (1983). The phenomenology of forgiveness and reconciliation. Journal Of Phenomenological Psychology27(2), 219.

Mizzi, J. (2003). “Restorative Justice, Punishment, and Atonement” Cornell Law Faculty Publications. Paper 279. http://scholarship.law.cornell.edu/facpub/279

Allan, J. (2006). Religion and the process of forgiveness in late life. Review of Religious Research42(3), 252-276. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/3512569

Krause, N., & Ellison, C. (2003). Forgiveness by god, forgiveness of others, and psychological well-being in late life. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion42(1), 77-94. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/1387986

Marty, M. (2007). THE ETHOSE OF CHRISTIAN FORGIVENESS. Journal of Religion and Health46(2), 233-248. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/27513006

McIntyre, L. (1996). BAPTISM AND FORGIVENESS IN ACTS 2:38. American Relgion and Society27(5), Retrieved from http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2038&context=ulj&sei-redir=1&referer=http://scholar.google.com/scholar?start=10&q=forgiveness+and+atonement&hl=en&as_sdt=0,11

[1]Webster, 1966

[2] Anum, E., Kuwornu-Adjaottor, J. (2010). NEW TESTAMENT CONCEPTS OF FORGIVENESS IN THE GOSPELS. American Journal Of Religion21(2), 175-184. Retrieved from: http://www.biblicaltheology.com/Research/AnumE01.pdf

[3] Theology for Beginners (19): Forgiveness(2004). Religion, forgiveness, and adjustment in older adulthood. Retrieved from http://www.faith-theology.com/2006/10/theology-for-beginners-19-forgiveness.html

[4] Johnson, R. (1987).TOWARD THEOOGICAL FORGIVENESS. American Psycological Association82(6), 956-974. Retrieved from http://gpts.edu/resources/documents/katekomen/Forgiveness-1.pdf

[5] Saunders, P. (1983). The phenomenology of forgiveness and reconciliation. Journal Of Phenomenological Psychology27(2), 219

[6] Forgiveness and Reconciliation. (2012). Boston Theological Institute. Retrieved from: http://www.bostontheological.org/forgiveness_and_reconciliation.html

[7] Theology for Beginners (19): Forgiveness(2004). Religion, forgiveness, and adjustment in older adulthood. Retrieved from http://www.faith-theology.com/2006/10/theology-for-beginners-19-forgiveness.html

[8] Wilson, D. (2002). GOD’S DEFINITION OF FORGIVENESS. Pastoral Psychology50(3), 147-152. Retrieved from: http://gpts.edu/resources/documents/katekomen/Forgiveness-1.pdf

[9] Wilson, D. (2002). GOD’S DEFINITION OF FORGIVENESS. Pastoral Psychology50(3), 147-152. Retrieved from: http://gpts.edu/resources/documents/katekomen/Forgiveness-1.pdf

[10] Allan, J. (2006). Religion and the process of forgiveness in late life. Review of Religious Research42(3), 252-276. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/3512569

[11] Allan, J. (2006). Religion and the process of forgiveness in late life. Review of Religious Research42(3), 252-276. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/3512569

[12] Mizzi, J. (2003). “Restorative Justice, Punishment, and Atonement” Cornell Law Faculty Publications. Paper 279. http://scholarship.law.cornell.edu/facpub/279

[13] Mizzi, J. (2003). “Restorative Justice, Punishment, and Atonement” Cornell Law Faculty Publications. Paper 279. http://scholarship.law.cornell.edu/facpub/279

[14] Johnson, R. (1987).TOWARD THEOOGICAL FORGIVENESS. American Psycological Association82(6), 956-974. Retrieved from http://gpts.edu/resources/documents/katekomen/Forgiveness-1.pdf

[15] Theology for Beginners (19): Forgiveness(2004). Religion, forgiveness, and adjustment in older adulthood. Retrieved from http://www.faith-theology.com/2006/10/theology-for-beginners-19-forgiveness.html

[16] Theology for Beginners (19): Forgiveness(2004). Religion, forgiveness, and adjustment in older adulthood. Retrieved from http://www.faith-theology.com/2006/10/theology-for-beginners-19-forgiveness.html

[17] Marty, M. (2007). THE ETHOSE OF CHRISTIAN FORGIVENESS. Journal of Religion and Health46(2), 233-248. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/27513006

[18] McIntyre, L. (1996). BAPTISM AND FORGIVENESS IN ACTS 2:38. American Relgion and Society27(5), Retrieved from http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2038&context=ulj&sei-

[19] Marty, M. (2007). THE ETHOSE OF CHRISTIAN FORGIVENESS. Journal of Religion and Health46(2), 233-248. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/27513006

 

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About Russia Robinson

I am an independent freelance writer and free thinker. I strive to use my writing talents to benefit the greater good of society, one word, one sentence, one page at a time. Originally from Richmond, California I attended San Francisco State University receiving a BA in English Creative Writing and American Literature in 2004. After this I attended post graduate studies in 2008 at Georgia’s Kennesaw State University in Technical Writing. With an academic background in English, I have spent more than 10 years’ helping young people succeed. This can be seen in my career background in education and mental health. I am a certifiable Language Arts teacher for the state of Georgia. I also worked in social services including juvenile mental health treatment services and counseling. As a result, I understand the diversity of problems people face in their everyday lives. With words put together like so, I promote equality and a healthy society for all people regardless of individual differences. Conducting research, writing articles, essays, and blogging, I push to educate others about various issues that affect people. I also do this creatively through short stories, poems, pictures, and a novel in progress. My hobbies and interest are reading and learning. I enjoy all things art and all things nature. From camping and astronomy to photography and cooking, I enjoy sighting seeing and socializing just as much as I enjoy curling in bed with a good book or binge watching TV.
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