Inside: These Examples of Forgiveness in the Bible Can Help you Learn How to Forgive
The word ADULTERY hung over her life like thick fog on the beach in the early morning. She wasn’t simply known as being an adulterer. The Pharisees wanted to shame her so bad that they devised a scheme to catch her in the very act of adultery.
It was especially grotesque coming from those who claimed to be righteous in the eyes of God.
As the pharisees brought her to Jesus, they demanded to know exactly what he thought about her sinful lifestyle.
As one who followed God’s law, surely he would want to have her stoned according to the Torah, right?
Wrong, The Pharisees were shocked with what Jesus did next…
Why are Examples of Forgiveness in the Bible so Important?
Why are examples of forgiveness in the Bible so important?
Before we dig into why examples of forgiveness in the Bible are so important, it’s important that we lay a foundation about forgiveness.
What is forgiveness?
What is forgiveness? Let’s go with 2 definitions from completely different sources:
- Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.
These two definitions from Merriam Webster stand out to me:
- to cease to feel resentment against (an offender)
- to give up resentment of or claim to requital
Forgiveness can be succinctly stated in the synonym, pardon, which means to excuse an act without penalty.
I don’t know about you but that REALLY hits home for me.
Importance of forgiveness in the Bible
When Nelson Mandela was released from prison, he was quoted as saying:
“As I walked out the door toward the gate
that would lead to my freedom,
I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness
and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
He was a free man but realized that if he didn’t forgive his oppressors, he would still be shackled.
When we choose not to forgive, we remain shackled in the prison that satan has prepared for us in the battlefield of our mind.
Has Redemption and Forgiveness Leapt Off the Pages of the Bible and Into your Heart? Have you experienced God’s forgiveness?
From Genesis to Revelation the entire text showcases the importance of forgiveness in the Bible.
Redemption and forgiveness leap of the pages of the Bible and into our lives as we not only learn about them, but EXPERIENCE forgiveness from the one to whom we have sinned against- God himself.
Every single Bible story, prophecy and Scripture point to forgiveness and restoration with our heavenly Father through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Power in Forgiveness or Power in the God who Forgives?
Many will say that there is power in forgiveness. While I understand the sentiment of that statement, I’d have to say I disagree with it. There is no power in the act of forgiveness but there is power in the One who can forgive. If you say there is power in your ability to forgive someone, you are making it about you and not God. We can’t shift focus away from our Lord and put it upon ourselves.
Beautiful Examples of Forgiveness in the Bible
Every single Bible story, prophecy and Scripture point to forgiveness and restoration with our heavenly Father through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Bible Stories about Forgiveness that you will read below are some of the most touching examples of forgiveness you will ever read. Whenever I read about Joseph revealing himself to his brothers, I always shed a tear.
It’s my hope and prayer that these beautiful examples of forgiveness from the Bible can help you learn about God’s forgiveness and how to forgive others.
Joseph Forgives His Brothers
From the first mention of Joseph in the book of Genesis, there was something special about him. It was clear that God spoke to him and was setting up a plan that would forever alter his family history and that of the nation of Israel.
Joseph had dreams that his brothers would bow down in obeisance to him and this made his brothers both angry and jealous. To rid themselves of this “dreamer” they threw him in a pit to leave him to die. He was sold into slavery and eventually landed up in Egypt serving in Pharaoh’s court.
To see how God was setting the scene for the future saving of a nation is amazing.
When a famine hit the land of Israel, Joseph’s father sent his sons into Egypt for food so they wouldn’t die. They traveled back and forth, and finally Joseph revealed himself to his brothers in a story that would bring anyone to tears.
Don’t believe me? Head on over to Bible Gateway and read the entire chapter of Genesis 45 for yourself where Joseph forgives his brothers. It will definitely bring a tear to your eye, or cause you to ugly cry.
Joseph forgave his brothers and thanked God for God’s protection over himself and the life of his family.
Jacob and Esau
In Jewish tradition, the family birthright was given to the firstborn male as the inheritor of all things in the family.
When Isaac and Rebekah had twins, Esau inherited that birthright over Jacob which caused a power struggle between them like no other.
Esau eventually gave up his birthright to his younger brother Jacob which caused much family tension.
In Genesis 32 and 33, you can literally feel the tension as Jacob feared his brother’s wrath and worried about Esau and his men killing him.
This climactic reunion showcases the forgiveness of Esau to his brother Jacob showing that God uses all things together for His good.
The Prodigal Son
We all have friends with wayward children. Perhaps that child was yours.
But here’s a truth bomb for you.
We all were prodigals lost without God.
It’s easy to look down at those who have walked away from God, but when we see the forgiveness of God, we see how great His mercy is towards all who have strayed away from Him.
Can you relate to the prodigal son?
The prodigal son was a young man who was entitled. He knew that his father was going to give him an inheritance in time, but he went to his father demanding it early. He went to a foreign country and squandered everything on a lifestyle that wasn’t edifying to God.
When a famine hit the land, he nearly starved to death and that’s when reality hit him and he realized all that his father had done for him.
His father had employees that worked for him with enough food to spare.
He trecked back home after he came to his senses.
If I watched a son take advantage of a father, squander his inheritance and not listen to his Dad’s advice, I could see how he wouldn’t be too thrilled for his son to come back home.
When the prodigal Dad saw his son at a distance coming home, the Father did something amazing.
He was filled with compassion, ran to his son, hugged him and kissed him. What a wonderful homecoming that showcased forgiveness to the prodigal son!
Old Testament and New Testament examples of forgiveness in the Bible
When it’s difficult to forgive, ask God to help you extend grace and forgiveness. You’ll see in the following Bible verses of forgiveness that God was beautifully illustrating examples for us to learn from, live out and follow.
Old Testament Bible Verses about Forgiveness
Forgiveness in the Garden of Eden
You might be scratching your head wondering where there is a mention of forgiveness in the account of the garden. And I understand. Adam and Eve had sinned in the garden and it seemed hopeless. But the story didn’t end there.
After the fall of Adam, God instilled animal sacrifice to atone for their sins- a practice that is still followed by current day Jews. Those animal sacrifices all point to the day that Jesus would pardon us by sacrificing himself for our sin on the cross. Jesus is the final sacrifice needed for forgiveness and pardon. God prepared a remedy for Adam, Eve and mankind that leads to the sacrifice of Jesus is forgiveness in action! Even when we couldn’t see it, God set the stage for the future redemption and forgiveness of mankind.
Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.Genesis 3:21
Forgiveness to the Rebellious Heart
Even in the midst Israel having a heart full of rebellion, God extended forgiveness to them.
To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him;Daniel 9:9
Forgiveness without Hesitancy
I love how David notes that God is plenteous in mercy. He is not stingy. He is quick to forgive with His plentiful mercy.
For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee. –Psalm 86:5
Forgiveness that is Undeserved
If we were rewarded with what we truly deserved, there would be an eternity in hell. God showed us forgiveness that removed our sins as far as the east is from the west.
He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. –Psalm 103:10-14
Forgiveness that Doesn’t Remember Sin
God is not a forgetful God. But in this Scripture reference below we can see that God can choose to forget and not remember our sins.
I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. –Isaiah 43:25
A God Whose Forgiveness Cleanses
Writing to the Jews in the southern kingdom of Judah, God spoke through Isaiah calling them to reason with Him and have their sin forgiven and cleansed.
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. –Isaiah 1:18
New Testament Bible Verses about Forgiveness
Forgiveness that Sees that Faith Matters
And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.Luke 5:20
Forgiveness that Cancels Debt
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.Matthew 6 12
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.Matthew 16:14-15
Forgiveness that Isn’t Limited by a Number
Here we can see what the Bible says about forgiving others. When Peter wanted to know exactly how many times he should forgive his brother, Jesus said seventy times seven. Jesus wasn’t telling Peter to only forgive his brother 490 times! It was an illustration to make the point that forgiveness should be unlimited.
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. –Matthew 18:22
A Forgiveness that is Prompted by Humility
And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.Matthew 18:22
Forgiveness that Reciprocates
Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:Luke 6:37
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.Matthew 6:9-15
A Forgiveness that Loves Much
Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. –Luke 7:47
A Forgiveness That Knows No Limits
And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.Luke 17:4
Forgiveness Even Leading to Death
When Jesus stood before the Roman Governor, Pilate, he knew that Jesus was innocent. He gave in to the persistent crowd who pushed him to convict Jesus and be killed. The words spoken by Jesus show unconditional forgiveness when He forgave those that crucified Him.
Then said Jesus,Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.Luke 23: 34
Forgiveness Only Through Jesus’ Blood
The book of Ephesians presents the solution to sin which is only found in Jesus Christ. It’s no surprise that this scripture summarizes that need so clearly.
In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;Ephesians 1:7
Forgiveness in the Church
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. –Colossians 3:13
Forgiveness that can’t recall sin.
And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.Hebrews 10:17
And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.Jeremiah 31:34
Forgiveness and Cleanings Through Jesus’ Blood
1 John 1:9 John speaks of our FAITHFUL God who not only forgives us of our sins, but cleanses us from ALL unrighteousness.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9
A Forgiveness that is Couples with Kindness and Tenderness
Have you ever wondered what the Bible says about forgiving others? Here is what the believers in Ephesus were told:
Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.Ephesians 4:31-32
Forgiveness that Cleanses from All and Every Unrighteous Act
1 John 1:9 Do you think that you are above and beyond the forgiveness that God freely offers you? Do you think you are past the mark of being forgiven. The Bible makes no mistake in saying that Jesus cleanses from ALL unrighteousness. ALL.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.I John 1:9
The Women in Adultery who Jesus Forgave
What about the women who was caught in the very act of adultery? What did Jesus do next that shocked the Pharisees?
Jesus spoke something profound and did one action:
They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
He said, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast a stone at her.” And then, as if ignoring the Pharisees, he stooped down and starting writing in the dirt on the ground.
Creative Sister, When God forgives you, no one can point a finger at you accusing you of your sin.
When Satan throws your past in your face, remind him of Jesus writing FORGIVEN in the sand.
The Examples in this blog post from various Bible verses about forgiveness are wonderful examples of grace and how we can live forgiveness in a tangible way. There are so many other examples of grace that you can find in the Bible:
- Forgiveness shown to Peter by Jesus after denying him (Matthew 26:26-69, John 21: 15-17)
- David shows kindness to the house of Saul after Saul tried to kill him (2 Samuel 9)
- Stephen’s forgiveness towards those that were stoning him to death (Acts 7)
Love forgiveness. Live Forgiveness. Show forgiveness.