The Power of Forgiveness
Forgiveness is an easy concept to understand, but it can be so hard to put into practice in your life.
In this article, we’ll share some stories about forgiveness that can be found in the Bible as well as what Jesus taught.
Stories Of Forgiveness In The Bible
The Bible is full of stories about forgiveness.
In fact, try reading the Old Testament some time as a singular story where the main character is “The People Of Israel.” You’ll notice when you read it that way the Old Testament reads like a never-ending story about an imperfect person who God forgives time and time again.
But stories of forgiveness are not just exclusive to the Old Testament.
In fact, the power of forgiveness is seen just as strongly in the New Testament. Every story in the New Testament deals with God’s ability to forgive imperfections, mistakes, and outright harmful behaviors to one degree or another.
Here are just a few examples of the power of forgiveness in the Bible.
The Power Of Forgiveness In The Story Of The Prodigal Son
The Prodigal Son is possibly one of the most famous parables Jesus ever shared. The story is about a young man who takes his inheritance and loses it while going against every value his family ever taught him. It’s also about his return back to his family and what they knew to be true.
Here’s the story according to chapter 15 of Luke.
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons.
12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.
14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.
15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.
16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!
18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’
20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.
24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
(Luke 15 as found in the NIV)
Think of it this way, everything we have, we have thanks to God. We can take that inheritance God gave us and use it wisely, or we can throw it all away until there’s nothing left.
And Jesus taught that even when we’re at our lowest, he’ll still be there to help pick us up like the father in this parable, and he’ll happily celebrate our return.
That’s what forgiveness looks like.
The Power Of Forgiveness In The Story Of The Prodigal Son’s Brother
While the prodigal son and the father may have been happily reunited, the other son (the brother of the prodigal son) felt hurt by what just occurred. And who could blame him? While his prodigal brother wasted everything the father gave him, this son stayed, obeyed, and worked hard day in and day out. It just didn’t seem fair.
Here’s the rest of the story according to chapter 15 of Luke.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing.
26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on.
27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.
29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.
30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.
32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
(Luke 15 as found in the NIV)
Who hasn’t experienced some version of this? Maybe you had a trouble-making sibling who never really answered for the heartache they caused? Maybe you got upset because there wasn’t a police car to pull over the person who nearly hit your car when they ran a red light. Maybe one of your parents was a better father or mother to a younger sibling than they were to you.
There are so many times when we feel like we’ve done something right and someone else has done something wrong and they haven’t been punished for it enough.
The Power Of Forgiveness In The Story Of The Crucifixion of Jesus
The best example of forgiveness, however, comes from the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus himself.
Here’s an account of his crucifixion from the book of Luke.
26 As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.
27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him.
28 Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children.
29 For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’
30 Then “‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”’[b]
31 For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.
33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.
34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the Jews.
(Luke 23 as found in the NIV)
Jesus was a perfect person. He never wronged anyone. He sat and ate with the marginalized of society. He preached love and righteousness. And yet he was murdered by those who hated him.
And what did he do while he was on the cross surrounded by those who mocked him?
He begged God to forgive them.
Because he understood that they didn’t realize what they were doing.
He understood that even these people needed forgiveness.
He understood that forgiveness was possible.
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