The Biblical pattern to forgive

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How to properly forgive according to the Bible

We are starting to enter the fall season in the northern hemisphere. This means that it is time again for the fall feasts of YHVH. This starts with Yom T’Ruah, then Yom Kippurim and lastly Sukkot and the 8th day.

You probably noticed that we always write Yom Kippurim in the plural form. This is because it is written that way in the Hebrew Scriptures. The translators have decided to translate it into a singular form. Jewish tradition explains the plural by saying it refers to making atonement for the living and the dead and goes further to say that it includes both sins committed against YHVH and the sins committed against other people. We must ask forgiveness for both sins against YHVH and against other people. However, if you do consider it for a moment, all sin, even sin against a fellow human being is a sin against YHVH. We are commanded to first love YHVH and then our fellow man as ourselves. Sin against another person will be breaking this one great commandment, and we will, thereby, be sinning against YHVH.

As a continuation of our study on spiritual roots of disease, it is also interesting to find that this act of forgiveness also has an impact on our health. Thus, we see that Yom Kippurim is not only for a spiritual reason, but also has an impact on the physical side. Earlier we wrote an article that dealt with the impact of unforgiveness. From this study, it is clear that there is a benefit for us not to walk around with unforgiveness. Please take the time to read this article before continuing. It covers the basics of forgiveness and why we must be willing to forgive.

The problem is that most people have a slightly distorted view of what this forgiveness between one another really means. I say this because people have one view of how the forgiveness of sins work when the sin is against YHVH, and another pattern when the sin is against a fellow human. Our Creator is the creator of order, not confusion. Thus, we should really expect to see the same pattern. What exactly is the pattern I am referring to? Most believers think that we should forgive all that trespass against us. This is true, but where then does repentance and atonement fit in, if we simply forgive all?

The cycle of Divine forgiveness

In our previous article “Obedience follows repentance”, we have seen that in our relationship to YHVH, repentance is the prerequisite for His forgiveness. In this article we explained the three-step process of receiving the divine forgiveness:

  1. Repent
  2. Receiving the forgiveness by faith
  3. Live an obedient life

This shows us a portion of the cycle that is involved when we sin. All sin we do is a sin against YHVH. For the sake of this article, I want to separate between sins that impact another person and those that are purely between YHVH and one person. An example of this is working on the Sabbath. In cases like these the complete cycle is as follows:

  1. Sin (deliberate or unintentional)
  2. The sin you committed brings separation between you and YHVH
  3. Your repentance of sin
  4. Discipline
  5. Forgiveness
  6. Restoration of the relationship

This is the complete cycle, but due to the grace of YHVH, we cannot always be sure about the extent of the discipline. Also, the discipline may precede or follow the repentance. However, we know that YHVH is a just Elohim and that He does not simply ignore all our sins. This statement is first made in Exodus 34:6-7 and again repeated in a few places.

Numbers 14:18
‘YHVH is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations.’

This implies that although we have repented of our sins we could still have to suffer the result of our sin. David did repent of the sin he committed with Batseba, but their first child still died.

What YHVH wants from our repentance is that we return to Him. This means that we seek Him and His ways. If we do this, He will forgive our trespasses and have compassion on us.

Isaiah 55:6–7
6 Seek YHVH while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to YHVH And He will have compassion on him, And to our Elohim, For He will abundantly pardon.

It is also very clear from Scripture that if we do not return to YHVH and repent of our sins, He will not forgive.

Deuteronomy 29:18–21
18 so that there will not be among you a man or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from YHVH our Elohim, to go and serve the gods of those nations; that there will not be among you a root bearing poisonous fruit and wormwood. 19 “It shall be when he hears the words of this curse, that he will boast, saying, ‘I have peace though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart in order to destroy the watered land with the dry.’ 20 “YHVH shall never be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of YHVH and His jealousy will burn against that man, and every curse which is written in this book will rest on him, and YHVH will blot out his name from under heaven. 21 “Then YHVH will single him out for adversity from all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant which are written in this book of the law.

There is also another reason that YHVH would not forgive. It is based on our willingness to forgive others. When Y’Shua was training His disciples on how to pray, he made this point very clear to them in so many words.

Matthew 6:14–15
14 “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

Thus, we need to be willing to forgive, if we want YHVH’s forgiveness. Does this mean we simply need to forgive no matter what happens? I believe that just like the case with sin against YHVH there need to be certain steps to complete the cycle of forgiveness. What does the cycle truly look like between two humans? If we simply forgive whenever we feel that somebody has done us harm, how will the restoration of the relationship ever take place?

Unforgiveness is not necessarily the same as not having forgiven a person. Unforgiveness is more the lacking of the willingness to forgive another person. This implies that you could walk around in the spirit of unforgiveness in you, even though you may have said that you have forgiven. The act of forgiveness is not to be confused with the willingness to forgive. We should make the distinction between the willingness to forgive and the actual act of forgiveness.

Unforgiveness can lead to spiritual disease

It is clear that an unwillingness to forgive has an impact on your health. Walking around with a grudge against another person for the wrong that you feel they have done to you, negatively impacts your health. We have already mentioned in our articles on spiritual diseases, that a number of our modern diseases come out of the spiritual realm. One of these is the spirit of unforgiveness.

Unforgiveness is a spirit that goes together with bitterness. Whenever you hold this grudge against another person, you have a resentment towards that person that makes you bitter – negative. These negative feelings also cause separation. Firstly, it causes a separation between you and the other person. The relationship is damaged. Secondly, it can cause a separation between you and YHVH.

There is another danger in bitterness or resentment. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, Paul tells us what this will do in our lives.

Ephesians 4:26–27
26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.

If we go to bed angry, or bitter, we give satan an entry point into our lives. This would then lead to sin. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews agree with what Paul wrote.

Hebrews 12:14–16
14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; 16 that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.

Thus, it is obvious that YHVH’s ultimate plan for our health is based on the assumption that we have good relationships with one another. This requires that we are willing to forgive as many times as required.

Matthew 18:21–22
21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Master, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Y’Shua said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

The fact that I have decided to forgive does not necessarily restore the relationship completely. Just as in the cycle, that we described above, there are steps missing in order for the relationship to be mended.

Repentance is a missing factor

If we want to ensure that the relationship is completely restored, we need to go through the required steps to ensure that all the stumbling blocks between ourselves and the other party are removed. One of the most frequently recurring issues is that the issue of guilt is never addressed. For both parties this topic is important.

For the party transgressing, it is important that they acknowledge their guilt. The same way YHVH wants us to come to Him and acknowledge our sins. If I acknowledge the fact that I transgressed, I realize that I need to fix something in the way I act. By acknowledging my blame, I allow myself the opportunity to improve. The same way that true repentance to YHVH means that I turn my back on the sin, so if I truly repent of my transgression to another person, I need to take the steps to ensure that I have turned my back on this. The transgressor then comes out a better person.

For the victim of the sin, the step of repentance brings restoration by the act that they experience that the other person has accepted the responsibility, humbled themselves and actively pursued restoration. The victim then sees the willingness to restore coming from both ends. If both parties are not willing to mend the relationship, it can never be mended. It is also true that any person’s perception is their reality. If I do not actually see you take steps to restore the relationship, my perception may still be that you do not seek restoration.

The responsibility of the victim is to allow the transgressor the opportunity to repent. We always teach our kids to say they are sorry whenever they caused harm to another. We should also be teaching them the skill to remain humble when accepting the apology/repentance of another. What will make this whole process go off the rails, is if the victim now gloats or looks down upon the repenting party. It is either pride or judgement that will cause this behaviour.

Romans 14:10
But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of YHVH.

We need to accept the repentance and forgive, the same way YHVH always forgives us.

There may be cases where the transgressing party does not want to acknowledge his/her fault. This results in the relationship never being restored. The same way when people turn their backs on the ways of YHVH. Their relationship with Him is damaged and as a result, they forfeit the blessing that would arise from this relationship. Even if the other party does not want to repent, we still need to be willing to forgive, should they ever change their mind. This willingness to forgive removes the spiritual burden from us. IF we are not willing to forgive, we walk around with a grudge and this has the option of opening us up for spiritual disease, as discussed in our previous articles.

Preparation for Yom Kippurim

As part of our preparation for Yom KIppurim, it is also a good idea to really think about any transgression or perceived transgression that we could have committed against another person. It is important to place yourself in the shoes of the other person when you look for these “perceived” transgressions. In some cases, it may not be a deliberate fault on our side, but in the eye of your brother, it is perceived differently. The same way we seek the forgiveness of YHVH, we also need to seek the forgiveness of our brother. Not look at the situation through our eyes but through His eyes. If we want to go before YHVH, we need to ensure that we have done all we could to be in good standing with our brother.

Matthew 5:23–24
23 “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

The above verse does not make any statement about proving or disproving guilt. It is telling us to ensure we have a good relationship with our brother. IF you do not have peace, go and sort it out. Even if it means doing things purely to manage the perception. We know from Scripture that Y’Shua also did things that He did not need to do, simply to manage the perception. The best example is the payment of the temple taxes.

Simon Peter was asked if Y’Shua pays the tax. He answered with a very clear “Yes.” This proves that the disciples did not doubt that fact that Y’Shua kept the commandments of Moses. Y’Shua explained to Peter that as the son of YHVH, He was not really required to pay this tax. However, to avoid the appearance of sin, He told Peter to go and fetch the money from the mouth of a fish.

Matthew 17:24–27
24 When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Y’Shua spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?” 26 When Peter said, “From strangers,” Y’shua said to him, “Then the sons are exempt. 27 “However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.”

But in YHVH’s perfect plan for restoring our relationships, there is an additional step that we have taken out of our modern society. What about restitution?

Restitution is required to restore

According to the ways of YHVH, the offending party is required to restore more than the damage they caused.

Leviticus 6:2–5
2 “When a person sins and acts unfaithfully against YHVH, and deceives his companion in regard to a deposit or a security entrusted to him, or through robbery, or if he has extorted from his companion, 3 or has found what was lost and lied about it and sworn falsely, so that he sins in regard to any one of the things a man may do; 4 then it shall be, when he sins and becomes guilty, that he shall restore what he took by robbery or what he got by extortion, or the deposit which was entrusted to him or the lost thing which he found, 5 or anything about which he swore falsely; he shall make restitution for it in full and add to it one-fifth more. He shall give it to the one to whom it belongs on the day he presents his guilt offering.

Not only is the offending party required to make restitution to his victim, he is also required to make a guilt offering.

Leviticus 6:6
“Then he shall bring to the priest his guilt offering to YHVH, a ram without defect from the flock, according to your valuation, for a guilt offering,

This implies that this fraud/robbery/extortion is ending up costing the offending party a lot. This must be a serious deterrent.

In our modern society, we see this as wrong. We now have a special term for it – “gains based recovery.” Almost all judicial systems in the world see this as an unfair practice. They are scared that people will cause others to harm them only to be enriched through this process. Does this not tell us something about the state of our society? The principle of brotherly love is nowhere to be found and laws are passed because we need to protect ourselves from our brother. What a sorry state.

To compensate for this evil we prefer to remove the right to restitution from the victim and rather give it to the state. When the courts impose fines on people, does it go to the victim? No, it goes to the government to spend on completely unrelated topics. How could this cause relationships to be restored?

What about intercession?

Does the transgressing party have to ask for forgiveness in person, in order for the restoration to happen? We know that in the certain cases YHVH forgave the sins of the people without them asking for forgiveness in person. One of the best-known examples occurred after the making of the golden calf. Moses went to YHVH and asked for the sin of the people to be forgiven.

Exodus 32:30–35
30 On the next day Moses said to the people, “You yourselves have committed a great sin; and now I am going up to YHVH, perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31 Then Moses returned to YHVH, and said, “Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. 32 “But now, if You will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!” 33 YHVH said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. 34 “But go now, lead the people where I told you. Behold, My angel shall go before you; nevertheless in the day when I punish, I will punish them for their sin.” 35 Then YHVH smote the people, because of what they did with the calf which Aaron had made.

Even though YHVH did forgive their sin, they still had to pay for it. YHVH smote the people.

In person to person sin, how would this principle work? It is always preferred that the offending party does the repenting, but some exceptions do exist. A good example is when a small child does damage to your property while playing. In this case, we often see one of the parents going to the neighbour to amend the relationship. The parent remains responsible to ensure that the child sees the error of his way. This is but one example where an agent could be used to ensure that the relationship between the two parties is restored.


We have seen that it remains our responsibility to seek reconciliation with our brother. This means that we need to do what it takes to protect our relationships with one another. If we do not look after these relationships, we will cause separation from our brother. This separation is one of the reasons we find so many diseases in our lives today.

The process for us to ensure long-term reparation of relationships can be found in the pattern that YHVH uses with us when we sin against Him. He requires us to repent before we will be forgiven. Yet, even if we do not, He is always willing to take us back whenever we change our minds. This implies that we also need to give a transgressor the opportunity to repent before we forgive. However, we should never walk around with a spirit of unforgiveness. No matter how badly we were impacted, we must be willing to forgive when asked.

The pattern for restoring our relationships should be based on the pattern provided by YHVH.

Sin against YHVH Transgression against our brother
1. Sin (deliberate or unintentional) Transgression (deliberate or unintentional)
2. Separation between you and YHVH Separation between the parties
3. Your repentance of sin Seeking forgiveness / Apology
4. Discipline Restitution
5. Forgiveness Forgiveness
6. Restoration of the relationship Restoration of the relationship

It remains our responsibility to seek reconciliation, no matter if we are the victim or transgressor. We need to get the anger out of the system.

Ephesians 4:30–32
30 Do not grieve the Set Apart Spirit of YHVH, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as YHVH in Messiah also has forgiven you.

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2 responses to “The Biblical pattern to forgive”

  1. […] whole chain of events that results in a root of bitterness in our lives, can be stopped by being willing to forgive those who have trespassed against us. This may seem difficult to do. When somebody has wronged us, […]

  2. […] chain of events that results in a root of bitterness in our lives, can be stopped by being willing to forgivethose who have trespassed against us. This may seem difficult to do. When somebody has wronged us, […]

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