Forgiving Christians

by Robert Flores

In my life, there have been Christians that I have met that I would definitely like to see again. To fellowship again with them would be an amazing time, but by space and time limitations, that will probably never happen again. There are, however, other Christians I have met in my life that I would never like to see or hear from again. You know the kind: the kind of Christian that may have wronged you or used you, the kind that wasn't a true friend or the one that became heretical in their thinking, the kind that you didn't have much in common with, or the Christian of the opposite sex that caused some problems, the kind of Christian that was not at the same spiritual maturity level as you, the kind of Christian that didn't grow you towards God or didn't love God as much as you, the kind of Christian that was hypocritical, materialistic, stubborn, proud, deceitful, manipulative, the kind of Christian that didn't share your same dreams, the kind of Christian that was selfish, lazy, depressed, had unorthodox theological ideas, the kind of Christian that you had a personality conflict with, etc...

Before we get too deep into this essay, I just want to clarify the title a bit. By the title of “Forgiving Christians”, I do not mean to imply that forgiving Christians is somehow different or more noble than forgiving non-Christians. Nor, by the title, do I mean that Christians are somehow generally not in need of forgiveness. Quite the contrary. Christians still struggle with their flesh and their sin-nature. Christians are still in the process of becoming like Christ, so they (i.e. we) still fall down a lot on that road. Having said that, I do believe that the forgiveness of Christians is sometimes harder to do, because we Christians know what the standard is and we expect other Christians to live up to that standard. I, personally, think it hurts worse when you’re done wrong by a fellow brother in Christ than a non-Christian.

The Christian has a standard to live up to; the non-Christian doesn’t. You and I don’t expect non-Christians to live up to that standard that we strive for. And yet, we are to forgive non-Christians as well. Though it is our duty to forgive non-Christians, the immediate results can sometimes be very mixed emotions. To start with, non-Christians rarely ask for forgiveness. When you finally do forgive them, there still isn’t real closure on the problem: they don’t have Christ in them and aren’t striving to be more like him. You don’t see that person turning more into the person of Christ when you forgive them. And, yet regardless of all the above mixed emotions and results, we, as Christians must still forgive them, whether they ask or not, whether they expect it or not.

On the other hand, to forgive a fellow believer in Christ is completely different. When a Christian comes and asks you for forgiveness, you are seeing a follower of Christ exhibiting the very characteristic of Christ—humbleness. And, that is not something to prohibit by our unforgiveness of a brother in Christ. Your immediate reaction is (or, should be) absolute joy that he recognized His wrong (through the power of the Holy Spirit) and has come to reconcile with you. Your forgiveness of that one Christian will then spread to the other members of Christ, just like the Body that it is. Your small humbleness, after his bigger humbleness turns the Body of Christ into a powerful force, spreading to the uttermost parts of the world with her forgiveness.

But, just because the end-result of forgiving a fellow believer in Christ is sweeter than forgiving an unbeliever, doesn’t make it easier. Our pride in being forgiven in Christ can sometimes make us forget that we are to extend that same mercy to others. We gladly accept the forgiveness that we have not earned from Christ and yet we demand that our fellow Christian earn our forgiveness before we give it. The Christian in this case, who is having a hard time forgiving, should look at his own heart. His own heart should convict him of his own need of forgiveness, just by the fact of his own self-righteousness in not wanting to forgive. We all have fallen short of the glory of God. We all need His forgiveness and we all need each other’s forgiveness. We’re willing to take the first one, but not the second one. And yet, God asks us to forgive each other.

For whatever reason, He chooses to work through each believer to show His forgiveness to every other believer and we have no right to keep that from anyone. Romans 8:1 says, There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” That is our standing before God and that is the standing of every other Christian before God. They were forgiven by God before they even wronged you. So, who are we to think that we can demote them to a status of “condemned”?

Hypothetically, what if a Christian who had wronged you n the past were to call you out of the blue someday? What if they really needed to talk to you, or what if they just wanted to talk to you? Would you turn your back on them? Assuming that they really do believe in Christ as their Savior, I don’t think there are any legitimate reasons for you to turn your back on them. Granted, feelings of past hurts and emotional difficulties would begin to plague your thoughts as soon as you would talk to them, but the Bible makes it very clear that you must forgive those Christians who have wronged you and must still be for them, regardless of their sins to you in the past. You are to still love them, past sins notwithstanding.

The Following are 13 reasons that you must forgive your brother or sister in Christ:

1. It is your duty to forgive them for whatever pain they caused you in the past. You must obey your King.

2. We are all Christ's Body and it needs to be unified and show love to each part, no matter how difficult it is.

3. You are not your own. God chooses to work through His sons and daughters to help his other sons and daughters.

4. The next time you need forgiveness, you may not receive forgiveness.

5. God will judge you, if you don't obey Him in forgiving, no matter your logical excuses.

6. Your brother or sister in Christ will be helped and draw closer to God. Why wouldn’t you want them to draw closer to God and give Him praise?

7. When you don’t forgive others, it always breaks other relationships in your life.

8. An unforgiving attitude is not very attractive for a Christian to have. Besides, when you act like these things, you become more and more like how that Christian was in the past, when instead, you should be more like Christ. In other words, you inadvertently become that person, by being disobedient to God.

9. Others, including non-Christians, will see your forgiving attitude and it will spread to those around them.

10. Forgiving others puts a smile on God's face. Does not God deserve joy by seeing fruit in your life?

11. When you forgive others, you're proving the power of the cross to yourself, to your brother or sister in Christ, to their circle of friends and enemies, to your circle of friends and enemies and to God the Father.

12.You have no authority to shut off God's forgiveness to others. What if Jesus did that to you, when you needed Him?

13. No one should be left in a state of “unforgiven” by you. You’re not the Judge.

From the aforementioned points you can see that if you have unforgiveness and bitterness against your Christian brother, you’re not going to lead a very fruitful life. Not to mention, that your unforgiveness would spread to other non-Christians who wrong you everyday. And, then what kind of witness are you having to the world?

Forgiving others is one of the keys to your own forgiveness. You have to love your neighbor (in this case, Christian neighbor) unconditionally, so that when you need it, you will receive it (either from God or others). God gave you forgiveness to pass it forward; not to horde it.

1 John 2:9-10 says, “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.” In other words, if you’re forgiving your brother, you’re in the light; if you’re not forgiving your brother, you’re in darkness. So how do you not stay in darkness? God gives us a clue in Proverbs 3:34, in which it says “he (God) giveth grace unto the lowly (i.e. humble)”. Your job, as a Christian is to be humble yourself and forgive your brothers and sisters in Christ.

So, how are we to forgive others, specifically, Christians? By the power of the Holy Spirit. He points us to the example of how Christ forgave us on the cross. He has forgiven us of all that we’ve done. He showed us how to forgive our enemies, when, on the cross, He asked the Father to forgive His murderers. That’s forgiveness. That’s power.

1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, He is FAITHFUL and JUST to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It’s only by His grace that we have been forgiven of our sins. The same God who forgave us of all our sins, is the same one who asks you to extend that forgiveness to others.

The following Bible verses are some of the verses in which I received the ideas for this essay:

So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. —2 Corinthians 2:7

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. —John 13:34-35

If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. —John 13:14-15

And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. —1 Peter 4:8

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his Lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the Lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their Lord all that was done. Then his Lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And 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 ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. —Matthew 18:21-35

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. —Hebrews 4:16

My little children, these things I write to you, that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. —1 John 2:1

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. —1 John 1:9

Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. —Acts 3:19

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus ... —Romans 8:1

Come now and let us reason together, says the Lord, Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. —Isaiah 1:18

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new. —2 Corinthians 5:17

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. —Ephesians 1:7

Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. —Matthew 11:28

Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved. —Psalm 55:22

I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins. Put Me in remembrance; let us contend together; state your case, that you may be acquitted. —Isaiah 43:25-26

Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more. —Hebrews 10:17

The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him. —Daniel 9:9

As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. —Psalm 103:12

Psalm of David, Maschil. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah. For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him. —Psalms 32:1-6

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. —Psalms 51:1-4

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. —Psalms 51:7

Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. —Psalms 51:9

Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. —Psalms 51:12

For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee. —Psalms 86:5

For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. —Psalms 103:11-12

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. —Matthew 6:14-15

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. —Ephesians 4:32

And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; —Colossians 2:13-14

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. —1 John 1:9