How to Forgive and Receive Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a huge topic – one that deserves some study.  How to forgive another, how to forgive yourself and even how to forgive God are concerns that we don’t often discuss but at some level we’re all wrestling with the subject of forgiveness.

It becomes an even bigger issue when you think about receiving forgiveness.  Are you really forgiven?  Many struggle with feeling like their sins are not forgiven and that’s a terrible place to live.  What about the consequences of your actions? Even if you’re forgiven there’s still the consequences to face right?

There are two scriptures that have become linked together perfectly in my mind.  Never before have these two passages seemed related really – and now I wonder why I never saw it before.

The two scriptures are teachings of Jesus found in His Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 6:14-15

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. (KJV)

Matthew 7:1-2

Judge not, that ye be not judged.
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (KJV)

Forgiveness is received as it is given.

Judgment is received as it is given.

Here’s where the relationship between forgiveness and judgment come in.

Complete forgiveness can only exist where there is no judgement.  The two are mutually exclusive.  This means that you cannot experience complete forgiveness if you’re holding judgment.

After all isn’t it judgment that demands forgiveness?  Where no judgment is, there is no need for forgiveness.

Forgiveness is taken care of as far as God is concerned.  Most Christians believe that.  That’s part of what Jesus accomplished by His life and death – providing forgiveness for all. So that work is done – complete from God’s end.  No problem there.

The only aspect of forgiveness that remains undone is our part.  It’s our job to receive it.  Here’s where the difficulty lies.

Receiving forgiveness involves recognition and repentance.  By “recognition” I mean that we must recognize the error and then the turning from that error and then repentance follows.

Now the key to how to forgive and receive forgiveness is understanding the nature of error.  The error is only and always a thought or belief.  What is done on the physical level isn’t the problem and doesn’t need to be addressed – and I know that sounds strange but bear with me.

When we say “It’s the thought that counts” there is more truth to that than we realize.

Consider these scriptures:

Proverbs 23:7

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee. (KJV)

Philippians 4:8

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (KJV)

Our ways of thinking and beliefs control and guide our lives.  We cannot live outside of our beliefs.  They determine our behavior, actions and reactions in every aspect of our lives.

It’s important to notice that thoughts are not right or wrong.  Don’t go into judgment over your own or anyone else’s.

It’s much like standing before a buffet of every possible type of food that every culture in the world has to offer.  You can’t eat all of them and so you must choose.  Judgement isn’t required.  None of the options are right or wrong.  All are available and good to eat.  You simply choose the ones you desire.

Thoughts come and go.  We get to choose the ones we entertain long term.  Those that we select are what we become.  That is why it’s important to notice them and to select the ones we desire to become.

When we observe something in our lives that doesn’t serve us and isn’t in alignment with Christ principle there will be a belief or thought pattern creating it.

It is wisdom to recognize and repent of these erroneous thoughts – and it’s a process – a journey. “That’s not what I desire so I let it go.”

If we don’t change our thinking, nothing changes.  You may regret a deed and say you’re never going to do it again but unless you change the thought patterns that created that action you are destined to do it again.  That’s why repentance and forgiveness doesn’t work at the level of physical action.  It’s not a physical process.  It’s a spiritual process and must occur at the spiritual level.

Once your way of thinking changes there exists no more possibility for the old behavior to occur again because the thoughts that created the action are no more.

Most of us would be better served if we even repented of the way we’ve always thought of repentance and forgiveness.  It’s not that the way we’ve thought about it is wrong – it’s has served us up to this time.  If we enjoy the way we’ve always thought about it then we’ll retain those beliefs.  If not then we adopt a new way of thinking.

When you let go of the non-beneficial thought then you’ve turned from it or repented – that is repentance.  Forgiveness is then automatic.  If you don’t sense you’re forgiven then you’re still holding on to some aspect of the old stuff.

Likely there is some fear around the old way of thinking.  You might be fearing consequences.  You may be fearing eternal punishment for ever thinking that way.  You may even have some fear about who you are becoming by letting go of old ways of being.

Fear is one of the biggest and most unnecessary emotions we struggle with.  Jesus advised “Fear not” and yet we do.  We’ve been trained for thousands of years to fear.  It’s in our DNA.  We must exchange our fear for faith.  God is waiting with perfect and absolute forgiveness and we’re reluctantly and fearfully holding back because we’re afraid of. . .   No it doesn’t make any sense.  It’s just what we do.

Claim your faith in God to save you and let go of your belief in the power of satan to get you.  There’s another belief to repent of.  Do you see what I mean?  You will discover more and more beliefs that just aren’t Godly and when you do, repent of them.  Turn from them and accept the forgiveness that’s waiting.

Remember what you were probably told as a kid? “Forgive and forget”.  I’d like to suggest that the forget piece has to do with letting go of that old thought process.  When you no longer think that way it won’t be very long and you’ll wonder how you ever thought differently than you do now!

Okay we’ve talked about receiving forgiveness or self forgiveness.  What about how to forgive others?

Can you believe that they’re the same thing?  What did Jesus say?

Matt 6:14-15

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. (KJV)

If you forgive you’re forgiven. It makes no difference if you work on forgiving yourself or others, the end result is the same.  You’re forgiven and you have given forgiveness.

The reason this is true is that the blocks to you giving and receiving forgiveness are your judgments, thoughts and beliefs.  As you repent and turn from them, forgiveness is given and received.

It doesn’t matter if you’re forgiving Hitler or a two year old child.  The process is within YOU.  Whether you are receiving forgiveness or giving forgiveness you are working with your own judgments, thoughts and beliefs.  It has nothing to do with the deed, who did it or what anyone else thinks about it.  I admit that this is more responsibility than most of us wish to take on – and yet it is ours.  Forgiveness won’t happen for us until we do.  It’s actually very simple once we understand it.

Here’s what happens.  We try to complicate it.  We try to add in all kinds of physical conditions, possibilities and extenuating circumstances.  All that stuff is mental acrobatics – processes that are part of our heritage as humans –  judgments and justification – and it doesn’t serve us.  It keeps us stuck in bondage and fear of God – we can’t accept forgiveness in that condition because there has been no repentance.

Saying “I’m sorry” doesn’t change anything and we know it.

If you’re feeling doubtful that you’re forgiven, spend some time looking at your beliefs that keep you from accepting God’s complete provision.  You’ll recognize them – and now you know what to do with them.