Forgiving one another Refs
 Forgiving someone who really hurt you is hard. Israel deeply hurt God by continually turning to idolatry, yet God forgave them. As forgiven sinners, we must follow God’s example and willingly forgive others, even when they don’t deserve it.

Matthew 6:9–15

The Lord’s prayer is one of the best known passages of Scripture but its message of forgiveness is largely ignored. This model prayer of Jesus is a humbling reminder of our inadequacies and our need for forgiveness. As forgiven sinners, we should also respond to the wrong-doings of others with compassion and understanding.

1. God expects believers to follow his example and willingly forgive others. Is this difficult?
2. Re-read verses 14 and 15. Why is God’s forgiveness conditional? Explain.
3. A friend lies to you and you find out.
(a) Should you wait until they ask for forgiveness before you forgive them?
(b) What should you do if they don’t repent?
(c) Is this different from the way God forgives sinners?
(d) If this friend was a believer, would you treat them any differently?

A forgiving spirit
Freedom in Christ! What does this really mean? Believers have been set free from “slavery to sin” by forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Accepting forgiveness from God should deeply affect the way we view others’ sins—we must have a forgiving spirit. In humility, we must genuinely forgive others from our hearts, realising that none of us deserves God’s mercy. If we do not forgive others, then why should God forgive us? Jesus told us “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”.
Matthew 5:7 On the other hand, he said “in the same way you judge others, you will be judged”. Matthew 7:2 The way we treat others is the way God will treat us. As James wrote:

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgement! (James 2:12–13)

Forgiveness of others is not natural; revenge feels good. Are you struggling to forgive others? Ask God for strength to forgive. The impact of repentance and removal of guilt should change our attitude, but learning to forgive can be a life-time process. As a believer becomes closer to God, forgiveness becomes more natural—the old sinful nature is being replaced by a godly nature. Paul understood this transformation and wrote

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reffect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:17–18)

Actions speak louder than words
Saying “I forgive you” is a good start to healing a damaged relationship. If someone really has hurt you, it takes time for the
pain and memory to fade—it doesn’t usually happen overnight. By following up words with actions, it makes forgiveness much more meaningful.

Forgiveness and kindness is particularly important if the wrong-doer is an unbeliever and not repentant.
Why is this so important? How would you apply the following examples?

If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it. (Exodus 23:4–5)

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you. (Proverbs 25:21–22)

Commandments to forgive others
Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13
Forgiving brothers
Matthew 18:15–35; Luke 17:3–4; 2 Corinthians 2:7–10
God’s forgiveness is conditional
Mark 11:25
Do not seek revenge
Romans 12:19; 1 Peter 3:9
Examples of forgiveness
Genesis 50:17–21; Numbers 12:1–13; 14:19–20; Acts 7:60

Notice that in these two passages, God tells you to look after your enemy and your enemy’s property. By showing mercy and love to your enemy, you are following the example of Christ and it may turn your enemy towards God. Actions speak louder than words.
Can you think of other examples where actions speak louder than words?

Turning from revenge
God commands us to show mercy, not revenge. Rather than seek revenge, be compassionate—leave revenge to God who judges righteously.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay” says the Lord . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17–19,21)

God expects and requires his people to show mercy and forgive others’ wrong-doings. This should come from the heart of a truly repentant believer. If we do not show mercy, God tells us he will not be merciful towards us.

1. Proverbs 17:9 says that when we have forgiven someone, we should forget it—don’t repeat the matter. It is very tempting when we are angry with someone, to hurt them by reminding them of past sins. Can you think of some ways to overcome this temptation?

2. (a) Read Matthew 18:21–22. Is Jesus saying that when someone sins against us for the 78th time, we do not need to forgive them?
The NIV says we should forgive 77 times. Some other versions say we should forgive 70 x 7 = 490 times.
(b) Think about this scenario: A friend wrongs you and you forgive them. Then they do it again. It’s a bit harder this time but you forgive them. A month later they do it again and you forgive them reluctantly. If they do it a fourth time . . . or tenth time, should you forgive them? Does it make any difference if they are just sorry or truly repentant?
(c) Read Matthew 5:23–24. What does this reveal about our relationship with God?
(d) Read Matthew 18:23–35. What does the parable of the unforgiving servant teach us about God’s forgiveness?

1. Can you think of an incident when you forgave someone but found it really difficult? Did forgiving them have a positive effect on the relationship? What helped you forgive them?
2. If someone wrongs us, God tells us to bless them and not to retaliate (Matthew 5:43–48; Romans 12:17–19; 1 Peter 3:9). In a paragraph, explain why we should love our enemy. What benefits could this have?

• The genius of discipleship by Dennis Gillett (published by The Christadelphian, 1984). Chapter 7 has a good explanation of God’s forgiveness and forgiving others.

6. What is God like?
28. Repentance
38. Grace
44. Judgement
55. The law of love