Why we are to forgive

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In our previous study, we learned about repentance and how obedience should follow repentance. In this study, we shall focus on forgiveness towards one another. Unforgiveness is the root of many problems. It leads to bitterness, anger and resentment and many other negative emotions. It affects us in every area in our lives. You may not have realized this before…or maybe you have, but don’t know how to change this. We shall share with you what we have learned about the effects of unforgiveness and how we can change this.

Many people have written on the topic of forgiveness. I am not attempting to better any articles or books that are available on the subject. I am doing this study to learn about forgiveness, because I want healing of my body, my soul and my spirit and I am sharing it with you for your benefit.

As I said before; unforgiveness affects every area of our lives. To live in unforgiveness is to be taken captive by it. We become prisoners, restricted, and unable to live out our destiny in YHVH. When you consider the words in Isaiah 61:1, we understand that Y’shua did come to redeem us from our sin, but He also came to heal us in so many ways. Part of being redeemed is to forgive as we have been forgiven. That is how we are set free. To live in unforgiveness could be equated to being afflicted, brokenhearted, taken captive and a prisoner. Y’shua came to bring good news to the afflicted, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners.

Isaiah 61:1
1 The Spirit of YHVH Elohim is upon me, Because YHVH has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners

We shall now get into a bit more detail in each of these areas to see why we need “healing” from unforgiveness.

How unforgiveness affects your body

Unforgiveness can cause illness in our bodies, because it causes a typical stress response in the body. Here is a quote from a book by Harris and Thoresen titled “Forgiveness, Unforgiveness, Health, and Disease”

Unforgiveness has been defined by Worthington and colleagues (Worthington, Sandage, & Berry, 2000; Worthington & Wade, 1999) as a combination of delayed negative emotions (i.e., resentment, bitterness, hostility, hatred, anger, and fear) toward a transgressor. We view unforgiveness essentially as stress response (see also Worthington & Scherer, 2004) with potential health consequences.1

There is much information available on the internet on just how unforgiveness causes disease. Here is a few quotes by researchers in the field. You can go to the link under references for more research results, if you are interested.

“Over an extended period of time, unforgiveness can be experienced as negative emotions that result in a cascade of biological and brain responses. Findings about the body’s hormone response to unforgiveness reveal that unforgiveness is reflected in specific cortisol levels, adrenaline production and cytokine balance (Worthington et al 2005) with patterns that parallel those reported in people living with high stress. These hormone patterns are known to compromise the immune system (Berry and Worthington 2001; Seybold et al. 2001) with the long-term consequence of leading to several identified chronic illnesses (Danese et al 2007).”

“Inwardly, the emotional wound affects deep vital processes. A psychological wound sets off mechanisms of the stress response…release of cortisol, adrenaline… (including) a slowdown in the immune system. ..which contributes to growth and spread of cancer.” Dr. David Servan-Schrieber, MD,AntiCancer

“Chronic unforgiveness causes stress. Every time people think of their transgressor, their body responds. Decreasing your unforgiveness cuts down on your health risk. Now, if you can forgive, that can actually strengthen your immune system.” Everett Worthington, PhD

“Sixty to 90 percent of visits to physicians are for conditions related to stress. Harmful effects of stress include anxiety, mild and moderate depression, anger and hostility, hypertension, pain, insomnia, and many other stress related diseases.” Herb Benson, MD, from The Relaxation Response2

These are but a few findings from secular doctors, but it proves to us that unforgiveness does affect our health. Do you perhaps have any of the above health problems?

How unforgiveness affects our soul

The soul is in short the mind and emotions. Unforgiveness causes bitterness in our hearts. It causes us to be jealous of other people. It affects how we see ourselves; we doubt and pity ourselves when we are caught in the web of unforgiveness. Our emotions are affected in that we experience anger, resentment, depression and even fear. Can you relate to this?

These are all effects of spiritual affliction. These emotions create a stronghold in our minds and we are constantly tortured by it. If we don’t forgive our soul will be delivered to the torturer.

Matt 18:34-35
“And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35 “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

This torturer is demonic affliction due to our unforgiveness. Unforgiveness opens a door to satan to afflict us and torture us.

How unforgiveness affects our spiritual life

The most severe adverse effect of unforgiveness, can be seen in our spiritual life. Our relationship with our Heavenly Father is negatively impacted upon if we dwell in unforgiveness. Contemplate this passage in Matthew:

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.

It makes you think doesn’t it? It must be important to YHVH not to have unresolved issues when we worship Him…

Not only does it affect our relationship with YHVH; it makes us ineffective workers for the Kingdom. Anger, bitterness and these kinds of emotions doesn’t really draw people to us. What the heart is full of, the mouth speaks. What is in your heart?

Luke 6:45
45 “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.

We can go into much more detail on each of these, but we would much rather focus on the healing of these areas in our lives. This illustrates to us that we are to pursue forgiveness for the benefit of the Kingdom of YHVH and for ourselves.

In our pursuit of truth regarding forgiveness, we need to know what forgiveness is.

What is forgiveness?

Here is a definition of forgiveness from the Merrian Webster dictionary.

for•give \fər-ˈgiv, fȯr-\ verb -gave \-ˈgāv\; -giv•en \-ˈgi-vən\; -giv•ing [Middle English, from Old English forgifan, from for- + gifan to give] verb transitive before 12th century

1 a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital for 〈forgive an insult〉
b : to grant relief from payment of 〈forgive a debt〉
2 : to cease to feel resentment against (an offender)3

Here is a definition from the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary:

Forgiveness is the wiping out of an offense from memory; it can be effected only by the one affronted. Once eradicated, the offense no longer conditions the relationship between the offender and the one affronted, and harmony is restored between the two. The Bible stresses both human forgiveness and divine forgiveness 4

We shall for the sake of clarity investigate the difference between divine and human forgiveness.

Divine forgiveness

We have learned from a previous post “Obedience follows repentance” that repentance is the first step to forgiveness. We have to repent of our sin before we can actualize YHVH’s forgiveness in our lives. Allow me to explain. When Y’shua died for our sins, He granted forgiveness to all. However, we still have to choose to accept that forgiveness through faith. This is a three-step process: firstly, by repenting, secondly by receiving that forgiveness by faith and thirdly to live obedient lives.

This is divine forgiveness:

Divine forgiveness is dependent on the loving nature of God. But while offered to all, pardon is not given to all. Impediments to forgiveness include stubborn unrepentance (Mark 4:12), unbelief (implicit in Acts 2:37–38, 40), denial of wrongdoing (1 John 1:8, 10), and refusal to forgive other people (Matt 6:14–15).

The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32) is a paradigm of the forgiveness of the sinner. One of its main features is the Father’s eagerness to restore the one who humbly returns to him. Those whom Y’shua receives and forgives are like the prodigal: Whether crushed by illness (Mark 2:3–4) or guilt and social ostracism (Mark 2:15; John 8:11), those who have felt the yoke of shame can find freedom in God’s forgiveness.4

Human forgiveness

Human forgiveness, on the other hand, is forgiving those who have sinned against us. Human forgiveness is based on YHVH’s forgiveness. 9156499_l

The imperative to forgive one’s fellows is based squarely on God’s gracious forgiveness: The parable of the unmerciful servant in Matt 18:23–35 is a vivid reproof against those who draw on God’s mercy and offer none of their own; indeed, the parable threatens a rekindling of God’s anger: “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Other texts include Matt 5:7, 6:12, 14–15, Matt 18:15–17, 21–22, Luke 6:37, 11:4, 17:3–4, Eph 4:32, Col 3:13, all of Philemon. 4

We are commanded not to take vengeance or to bear a grudge, but to love our neighbor as ourselves.

We are to love our neighbor as ourselves

We are taught to love our neighbor as ourselves! That is a broad statement which will include forgiveness, in my opinion. Taking vengeance and bearing a grudge are characteristics of unforgiveness and we are commanded not to do either.

Leviticus 19:18
18 ‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am YHVH.

The words “vengeance” and “grudge”

5933 נָקַם (nā·qǎm): v.; ≡ Str 5358; TWOT 1413—LN 38.1–38.13 (qal) seek vengeance, avenge, i.e., pay harm with another harm, with a focus on justice and punishment of guilt, real or perceived (Ex 21:20a; Lev 19:18; 26:25; Nu 31:2; Dt 32:43; Jos 10:13; 1Sa 24:13[EB 12]; Ps 99:8; Eze 24:8; 25:12a, 15; Na 1:2

5758 II. נָטַר (nā·ṭǎr): v.; ≡ Str 5201; TWOT 1356—LN 88.171–88.191 (qal) be angry, harbor a grudge, maintain wrath, i.e., be in a state of displeasure with an object, implying for a considerable period of time (Lev 19:18; Ps 103:9; Jer 3:5, 12; Na 1:2+)5

To bear a grudge is, in my opinion, referring to unforgiveness. To be angry or in a state of displeasure for a considerate period of time…

Y’shua quoted this verse when He was asked what the greatest commandment is.

Mark 12:28–31
28 One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” 28 Y’shua answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! YHVH our YHVH is one Elohim; 30 and you shall love YHVH your Elohim with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 “The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

To love our neighbor as ourselves is the second most important commandment, and considering what the rest of Leviticus 19:18 states, we can deduce forgiveness as one of the ways of loving others. Not only do we release them, when we forgive, but we release ourselves from the burden of unforgiveness.

Have you forgiven completely?

How do we measure if we indeed have forgiven completely? We have learned the following from the two definitions of forgiveness:

  • that forgiveness is the giving up of all resentment
  • the wiping out of the offence from memory
  • it can only be effected by the one affronted and
  • once effected, harmony is restored between the parties involved.

If you were to consider your past hurts, can you say that you have forgiven completely, based on these criteria? You may also want to consider your relationship with YHVH and others and the state of your health.

Restitution was a way of righting some of the wrongs in the community. By making restitution, the desire to take vengeance or bearing a grudge is, in many cases, removed. Therefor, in order to understand forgiveness better, we have to understand restitution.

Restitution, righting the wrongs

The word translated as restitution is “salem” in Hebrew. Interesting to note that “salem,” and “shalom” share the same verbal root.

8966 I. שָׁלֵם (šā·lēm): v.; ≡ Str 7999; TWOT 2401c—1. LN 68.22–68.33 (qal) be finished, be completed (1Ki 7:51; 2Ch 5:1; 8:16; Ne 6:15; Isa 60:20+); (piel) fulfill, complete (1Ki 9:25); (pual) be fulfilled (Ps 65:2[EB 1]+); (hif) cause to fulfill, finish, bring to an end (Job 23:14; Isa 38:12, 13; 44:26, 28+), note: for focus on the mode or obligation of a fulfillment, see also domain LN 71.21–71.33; for a focus on the happening of an event, see also domain LN 13.104–13.163; 2. LN 20.12–20.30 (qal) remain sound, remain healthy, be unscathed, not be harmed (Job 9:4+); 3. LN 13.48–13.68 (piel) restore, i.e., bring to a previous, preferable state (Job 8:6); 4. LN 57.152–57.171 (piel) repay, make restitution, i.e., receive compensation of money or goods for a loss (Ex 21:34); 5. LN 38.14–38.20 (piel) give recompense, i.e., mete out a just penalty or reward (1Sa 24:20[EB 19]; Jer 32:18); (pual) be repaid, receive recompense (Pr 11:31; 13:13; Jer 18:20+), 5

From this definition, we get a better understanding of the concept restitution. This concept is very pronounced in the Tanakh. When a person caused damages to another person or sinned against him, he was to make restitution. When restitution was made, the matter was considered concluded. This restitution, was in most cases, monetary compensation based on the value of the damages incurred. You can read more about restitution for personal injuries in Ex 21:18-36 and for property in Ex 22:1-15; Lev 6:2-5; Num 5:6-8. These references are in order for you to understand the extend of restitution. Consider this verse in Exodus:

Exodus 22:1
1 “If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.

The compensation awarded was to be more than the value of what was stolen (Ex 22:1-4). Think about it, would you still harbor resentment against a thief, if you were compensated at a value more than its original value, in this case five times for an ox? I would say, generally speaking; it would remove the resentment.

Why do we experience unforgiveness? Could it be because of wrongs done to us without restitution being done? Restitution removes, in many cases, the resentment that causes unforgiveness.

You do have to take note that restitution does not include transgressions involving loss of life. For murder the death penalty would apply and in the case of manslaughter, the person responsible would flee from the community to a city of refuge. In that way the relatives would not be confronted with this person and he will remain safe from harm from them. There is much more that can be said about this, but this is not our focus.

When we live according to YHVH’s instructions, unforgiveness would mostly be eliminated, because of justice, especially when it comes to property.

Restitution is something that is largely lacking in our modern society. The restitution that does exist is twisted and not always in line with YHVH’s instructions. Could this be a reason people walk around full of anger, resentment and unforgiveness? Think about it, how does a sum of money compensate a child who was molested by a Roman Catholic priest, or how does money make medical negligence good. It simply could not. These are the cases where restitution could not bring closure or forgiveness. These are also the cases of which YHVH says “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,”

Romans 12:19–20
19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of Elohim, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says YHVH. 20 “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”

To forgive in these cases, mercy is required.

In restitution, we see the principle of an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth applied. Y’shua taught that we should turn the other cheek. Is Y’shua’s teaching contrary to the Tanakh? If you take it at face value, you would certainly come to that conclusion. However, if you consider it, Y’shua was teaching a “restitution” without demanding compensation.

When Y’shua was on earth, it was at a time of Roman rule and oppression. The Jews were allowed to practice their faith and govern themselves for a time, but that changed. Y’shua being the greatest prophet Who ever lived (Deut 18:15; Luk 24:19) knew this and taught how it should be dealt with when restitution would not be possible. To turn the other cheek is to seek forgiveness rather than restitution. To seek restitution is not wrong, but it should not be the end goal. Forgiveness should be.

Restitution is about justice, but forgiveness is about mercy. It is not only about you being merciful to another, but about you being able to forgive through YHVH’s mercy. He makes it possible for us to forgive, but we must be willing.

We will next look at a few Scriptural principles regarding forgiveness.

We have to forgive in order to be forgiven

Do not expect something you are not willing to give.

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.

Mark 11:25–26
25 “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. 26 [“But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.”]

Luke 6:37
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.

Y’shua also taught that we must forgive because we have been forgiven.

Forgive as you have been forgiven

Y’shua told the parable of the King who forgave the debt of his slave. He showed mercy and forgave the slave his huge debt, but the slave chose not to forgive the small amount that was owed to him.

Matthew 18:23–35
23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 “When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 “But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. 26 “So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ 27 “And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. 28 “But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ 29 “So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ 30 “But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. 31 “So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. 32 “Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 ‘Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ 34 “And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35 “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

We certainly can learn from this. YHVH has forgiven us all our sins, who are we to withhold forgiveness from another?

There are some more very important principles to remember regarding forgiveness.

Be quick to forgive

Be quick to forgive, but hold people accountable. It is for their own good, and it will also benefit society. If a thief, for example, is caught by you, and you forgive him without reporting the theft, you did him no favor. He should be held accountable for what he did. However, that does not mean you have to walk around with a grudge in your heart against him.

Ephesians 4:26
26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,

Forgive and forget

Wounds of past hurts is another area most of us battle with. Here, we need to forgive and move on. Nurturing those wounds are like building an altar for satan and every time you indulge yourself in bitterness or self-pity, you offer on that altar of satan. That is a scary thought!

To forget is not the same as denial. Denial is avoidance of the truth; it is not forgiveness. It might give the appearance of forgiveness, but it is not. You will find proof of this when you least expect it. When you have not seen a person who has offended you, for a while, and you feel bitterness or anger when seeing them, then you know you have not forgiven them. When you have forgiven, you will not remember the sin committed against you. You will not experience bitterness or anger. We are not to “forgive” like this; we are to forgive as YHVH forgives, completely. He does not even remember our transgressions when we have sincerely repented.

Hebrews 8:12
12 “For I will be merciful to their iniquities, And I will remember their sins no more.”

Isaiah 43:25
25 “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.

70×7 times

How many times are we to forgive?

Luke 17:3–4
3 “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

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?” 22Y’shua said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

Last but certainly not least, we are to forgive ourselves!

Forgive yourself

This is where faith comes in! Every time you are challenged by the adversary because of your past, you have to remind yourself and believe that you were forgiven by YHVH.

A very dear friend shared this wisdom with me: If you can’t forgive yourself, you are placing yourself above YHVH because if He -the Creator of the universe- forgave you, who are you, not to forgive yourself.

YHVH forgives us so totally and completely. “As far as the east is from the west.” That’s quite a distance! Let us release ourselves in knowing that our Abba has forgiven every single one of our transgressions. Who are we then not to do the same for others and ourselves?

Psalm 103:12
12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

Practical application

Now that we understand forgiveness better, we need to take the first step. We need to consider our lives and measure it against what we have learned. This may bring us to the conclusion that we harbor some kind of unforgiveness. The next step would be to ask YHVH to reveal all our unforgiveness to us. We are then to, systematically, work through this.

Sometimes, we cannot bring ourselves to forgive a person. What are we to do in a case like this? We must, in these cases, make a conscious decision to forgive and ask YHVH to help us and to change our hearts. We can ask Him to see the person through His eyes and to have compassion for them, like He has compassion for us.

He is faithful; He will. His will for us is to be healed and whole. This is a process and may take time, but stick to it, and you will be released from unforgiveness little by little. Have faith! YHVH has good plans for you!

Jeremiah 29:11
11 ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares YHVH, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.

He said it, He will certainly do it!


  1. Alex H. S. Harris, Carl E. Thoresen; Forgiveness, Unforgiveness, Health, and Disease
  2. http://releasenow.org/theresearch
  3. Merriam-Webster, I. (2003). Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc.
  4. Shogren, G. S. (1992). Forgiveness: New Testament. In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), . Vol. 2: The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (D. N. Freedman, Ed.) (835). New York: Doubleday.
  5. Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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2 responses to “Why we are to forgive”

  1. Gina Schubbe

    With a grateful heart, I thank you for your article on forgiveness. I have carried unforgiveness in my heart all my life. I was badly abused in many ways throughout my childhood by my earthly father, and this has affected my life in so many negative ways–physical health, my relationship with YHWH, my relationships with loved ones, my feelings about myself. My father is no longer living. While he only half-heartedly apologized to me later in his life, I don’t know whether he asked for YHWH’s forgiveness. I followed your advice about how to pray for help with this. While praying, this is what I felt revealed to me:

    In prayer, I learned that I can forgive my earthly father for sins committed against me WITHOUT even knowing if he ever repented of his sins against me.
    If he sincerely repented of his sins against me to my Heavenly Father, he has already been forgiven.
    Psalm 103:12
    12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
    Who, then, am I to contradict YHWH by holding unforgiveness in my own heart?
    If my earthly father did not repent, then
    Romans 12:19–20
    19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of Elohim, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says YHVH.

    Either way, I do not have to hold onto unforgiveness, because YHWH has it already handled!! I can be free of the burden of carrying this unforgiveness because He has already removed it from my shoulders, as revealed in His Word in the above verses, whether my earthly father has repented or not!!

    While the whole process of total forgiveness to the point of forgetting that it ever happened may take time, at least I have started the process and have scripture to hold me up as I continue on this path.

    The scriptures mentioned in your article were the basis of my understanding, and through prayer I got a deeper understanding of forgiveness. I hope this message might help someone else who has struggled with some of these same issues.

    Thank you. Love and shalom.
    Gina Schubbe

    1. Shalom Gina,
      Thank you for sharing! YHVH is amazing!

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