A Simple Guide to Forgiveness

I love the title of this blog.  I hope it will get lots of “hits” because of it!  It's kind of like posting an article with the headline: “Easy ways to Make Lot's of Money andforgive Be Your Own Boss.”  People generally want easy paths to end results.  The road to forgiveness is, for the most part, not an easy one.  The path to the forgiveness of our sins took Jesus to the cross and to the grave.  The first words Jesus spoke on the cross expressed His desire for our forgiveness.   He prayed, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)  I am stirred with emotion as I contemplate the great lengths Jesus went to forgive me and you.  It is a story of immense love and beauty, coming out of the most horrific and horrible of situations.  Christ loved us so much that He suffered  and died so that we could be forgiven, so that we might be in a right relationship with God.  When we see a story of true forgiveness unfold in front of us, it is beautiful to behold.

It is beautiful, until we are the one that has to do the forgiving. “Forgiveness,” C.S. Lewis observed, “Is a beautiful word, until you have something to forgive.”  

Forgiveness is a beautiful word, until you have something to forgive.” C.S. Lewis

Robert Jeffress tells a story in his book, When Forgiveness Doesn't Make Senseabout a Sunday School teacher.

In the middle of the lesson one Sunday, two boys in the back of the room were arguing.  The teacher stopped the class and asked what the problem was.  One of the boys replied that on the way to Sunday School the other had hit him.

“This is a great oppporunity to teach them about forgiveness,” the teacher thought.  He called the two boys to the front of the class and emphasized how much God wants us to forgive each other.  Then the teacher asked the all-important question.

“Brian, will you forgive Luke?”

“Sure,” Brian said.  He then hauled off and punched Luke in the stomach.

“Wait a minute,” the teacher yelled, grabbing Brian by the arm.  “I asked you to forgive Luke, not hit him.”

“I will forgive him,” Brian protested, “but I had to get even with him first.” 1

As C.S. Lewis said – forgiveness is a beautiful word until…

Lewis Smedes work on the topic of forgiveness is incredibly helpful and timeless.  I would recommend his books, Forgive and Forget, The Art of Forgiving,  and Shame and Grace, to anyone.

The following article  called Keys to Forgiveness was written for Christianity Today  in 2001.  He is answering the question “how do you know if you have truly forgiven someone?”

Jesus was unequivocal on this point: As his followers, we are required to forgive those who sin against us (Matt. 6:15). But what if we don't feel like we've forgiven them? How do we know, then, if we have truly forgiven? The Holy Spirit, thank God, often enables people to forgive even though they are not sure how they did it. But forgiving, and knowing that we've truly forgiven, comes easier when we understand the realities of forgiveness:

For the rest of the article click here: Keys to Forgiveness.

Jesus modeled forgiveness.  The bible teaches forgiveness. We need to be practicing forgiveness. Lewis Smedes said it best when he observed,

“We set a prisoner free and then discover that the prisoner we set free was us.” Lewis Smedes

 “The first and often the only person to healed by forgiveness is the person who does the forgiveness…when we genuinely forgive, we set a prisoner free and then discover that the prisoner we set free was us.” 2


  1. Robert Jeffress, When Forgiveness Doesn't Make Sense, (Waterbrook Press, 5446 North Academy Blvd, Suite 200. Colorado Springs, 2000), 11
  2. Lewis Smedes, The Art of Forgiving, (New York, Ballantine, 1996), 178
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