The teaching that “forgiveness is a process” has its roots in secular psychology. It has no scriptural basis.
1 John 1:9 does not say, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, to begin the process of forgiving our sins.” In Matthew 18:21-22 Peter asked, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? till seven times?” Jesus said unto him, “I say not unto you, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” is 490 times. If forgiveness is a process, it would take a computer to know which one of those you might be working on at any given time . . . was it the 27th . . . or the 96th . . . or possibly the 422nd. In Leviticus chapters four, five and six “forgiveness” is dealt with as different kinds of transgressions are mentioned. Nine times, when the conditions of repentance are met, it then states, “It shall be forgiven.” It is complete . . . not a process.
That is the way God forgives. But what about us?
The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:32. “Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” As God forgives, so we are to forgive. Is it a “process?” No. Colossians 3:13 gives us added instruction. “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any, even as Christ forgave you, so do ye.” Did Jesus make it a “process” when He forgave us? Did He forgive us in increments?
Jesus makes it even more emphatic.
Mark 11:25–26. “When you stand praying, forgive, if you have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Listen carefully to Verse 26. “But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” At the conclusion of “The Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6:9–13 in which He prays “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” verse 12. Jesus continues in verses 14-15 by teaching, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Forgiveness is not a “process.” It is a “choice.”
What if it is something “really bad?” Scripture deals with that too. In First Corinthians 5:1 Paul writes, “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.” (Either his mother or his step–mother.) Paul said, “Purge out therefore the old leaven . . . .” In other words, “Dismiss him from your fellowship.” But in the Second Epistle to the Church at Corinth, Paul deals with restoring him to fellowship. Second Corinthians 2:6–8. “Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise you ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that you would confirm your love toward him.”
Jesus taught, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you: that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” Matthew 5:44-45. Writer Richard Exley suggests, “Think of the deepest wound you have suffered in life. Remember the person who hurt you. Then answer this question, ‘What have I done to bless that person’?” Even “forgiveness” is not enough.
We must go beyond that, and do good to the offending person.
A Christian brother was deeply hurt by other Christians. In his heart he said, “God said, ‘vengeance is Mine, I will repay’.” But the Lord spoke to him, “NO, you must forgive until you don’t want me to take vengeance.” Forgiveness. Not from the lips. Not from the mind. But from the heart.
In His teaching on forgiveness, Jesus said, “His lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall My heavenly Father do also unto you, if you from your heart forgive not everyone his brother their trespasses” Matthew 18:34-35.
© 2015 Owen C. Carr
About the Author:
Owen Carr has read the Bible through 115 times. He has been in full time ministry 73 years. He has held District and National positions, and been president of a Bible college. Some things he has learned from experience, and others by observation. In these writing he endeavors to share from both perspectives.