The Power of Forgiveness

I know someone who says:

If we want to enjoy the release that comes from being forgiven we have to be willing to forgive others.

Towards the end of the civil war in Sierra Leone I visited a boys’ home that a remarkable friend of mine had established for children affected by war. I discovered that sleeping in the same dormitory he had ex boy soldiers together with the orphans of families that had been their victims. I was amazed to find those that had suffered at their hands sleeping in the same place and I said to my friend: “Surely this must give rise to serious tensions”, his answer was: “Ah, you see we have discovered the power of forgiveness”.

The evidence of that can be seen today, these years later, when some of those ex-boy soldiers are now running the projects, the boys’ home, school and church community in that same place and doing an excellent job.

We often hear of the power of love but I wonder if the power of forgiveness is not the second most powerful force in the universe.

This subject often leads to heated debate between punishing people responsible for their crimes and forgiving and restoring. Of course they are consequences for committing offences.

I was asked: “If forgiveness is so available why can’t I rob a bank and then just get forgiven?”.
I said: “You could, indeed you could enjoy forgiveness every day for the next 20 years that you spend in prison as a consequence of your action!”.

Forgiveness sometimes sounds attractive and sometimes repulsive (can those who recently shot down the Malaysian Airways aircraft actually be forgiven?)
More particularly, is it possible to actually forgive? Is it true that if you forgive you gain more release than the person you forgive?

Talking about this in Sierra Leone with the wounds of war being so recent, a lady said: “Are you saying it is possible to forgive the man I see every day that I know killed my father?
I said: “Naturally no, it is not possible, but there is a way”.

I know someone who can help us achieve that.

But of course it comes with a price …

Power of Forgiveness 2


20 comments for “The Power of Forgiveness

  1. August 26, 2014 at 10:27 am

    Thanks Mohammed,very interesting and brings an additional prospective on the great work of Christ and our involvement.

  2. August 25, 2014 at 9:06 am

    “Whosever sins you forgive, will be forgiven and whosever sins you retain, will be
    retained.” That’s what Jesus said to His disciples as He sent them out to preach the
    gospel of the kingdom, this is recorded in John chapter 20 verse 21, here Jesus says to
    His disciples, “Peace be with you, as the Father has sent Me I am sending you, receive
    the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive
    them, they are not forgiven.” His disciples went out to preach the remission of sins on the
    day of Pentecost beginning in Jerusalem as they were told to do in the book of Luke, in
    the recording of the great commission in Luke. Jesus said, “Go and preach repentance
    and the remission of sins beginning in Jerusalem.”
    Repentance was the repentance from being under the control of the god of this world.
    And the forgiveness of sins was what the disciples were empowered to declare. But isn’t
    that just much more than we can do? After all, we didn’t die on the cross for anybody’s
    sins, Jesus did. And we were not raised from the dead as the proof that God was with us,
    Jesus was. Therefore how are we empowered to forgive men their sins, and furthermore
    how are we empowered to retain their sins? And even if we got up to that place, of
    believing all of that, how would we know whose sins should be forgiven and whose sins
    should be retained? It seems like this is asking way too much of us.

    Why would God send us, why would Jesus, the One who died to save us from our sins;
    why would He send us to make such declarations as those? This is from the book of II
    Corinthians. II Corinthians tells us who we are to be able to make these kinds of
    declarations. II Corinthians chapter 5 says this, verse 16, “So from now on we regard no
    one any longer from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this
    way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: The old
    has gone and the new has come!” Verse 18, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to
    Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was
    reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And He
    has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”

    All authority in heaven and on earth being given to Jesus as King by which His kingdom
    is established on the earth; His kingdom being the kingdom of heaven. The reality of
    heaven existing on the earth for our benefit that we might be joined with Him in His
    body, the body which is known as the kingdom of heaven or the body of Christ. Of
    which He is the head and ruler over it and rules in it by all authority that exists in heaven
    and on earth, by which He destroyed the works of the devil. Having destroyed the works
    of the devil, anyone who is under the control of the devil is free to go. We remain under
    the control of the evil one only because we don’t know we’re free to go. The good news
    of the kingdom is what tells you you’re free to go.
    Who is sent to you to declare the good news of the kingdom? We are, we are Christ
    ambassadors. In order to be an ambassador, there must be a kingdom that you represent.
    An ambassador is by definition, the term means that you represent another. You’re
    representing the One who died on the cross; you’re representing the One who has
    forgiven men their sins. Did you hear what I said? The One who HAS forgiven men their
    sins. Forgiveness was accomplished when Jesus died on the cross; He died for the
    forgiveness of men’s sins. Of whose sins? Of everyone’s sins. Everyone’s sins are
    subject to being forgiven. Why? Because He died once for all, He died one time for
    everyone. Is this true or not? When He died on the cross, He died for you, for whomever.

  3. Mark McGrath
    Mark McGrath
    August 12, 2014 at 8:26 am

    David, you are highlighting what is perhaps the hardest part of the process. Thank you. The way I seek to work that through is to remind myself that the choice to forgive is, in reality, a choice to personally absorb the pain and not to demand any repayment from the one who caused it. That is what God did for me in sending Jesus to the cross. He absorbed the pain and penalty of my offense and accepts that as total payment, never demanding further repayment from me. That doesn’t exempt me from consequences of my actions, they still must be endured, but it does deliver me from owing Him anything but love and appreciation.

    The difficulty with this analogy is that I really don’t stop offending Him. I still do, and He never tires of applying the payment already made and freely forgives me when I confess. (1 John 1:9) From that perspective, He has the harder job. When I forgive someone it is usually for something already done, and, usually, that’s the end of it. So, when I encounter (or even just think about) the person who hurt me, I remind myself that they don’t owe my anything. That debt is paid. I need to consciously roll the pain I absorb onto Jesus and entrust myself and my future to Him.

    But, I do need to ask God to help me align my thoughts and choices (and eventually my feelings) with that forgiveness. Sometimes that temptation to wish them ill is slow in yielding, other times it yields more quickly. But remembering the cross and my own forgiven debt helps me. Does that line up with what you experience?

    Thanks so much for this conversation. Anyone have other ideas and perspectives on how to do this admittedly difficult thing called forgiveness?

  4. August 10, 2014 at 11:14 am

    I read a news story about some research recently on forgiveness:

    Participants that were more willing to let someone off were more likely to forget details about what that person did. In other words, the decision to start forgiving helps you forget, and heal.

    Personally, when I have been hurt, I think it’s the forgetting it that can be hardest. Sure, I can agree externally not to bad-mouth that person, or do nice things for them even though they’ve hurt me, but how do I deal with that feeling whenever I see them? How do I deal with the breakdown in trust, or the dread whenever I have to complete a task with that person? What if the person who has hurt me isn’t actually someone who I have any relationship with, but whose actions have had a profound affect? (Sounds hypothetical, but if you’ve been a victim of crime, chances are you’ve experienced this.)

    The start of it is deciding to forgive, clearly and to ask God for help, but sometimes that is just the start. Does anyone have any further thoughts or ways they have walked through that process?

  5. Keith
    August 5, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    Welcome Teresa! Thanks for sharing some of your experiences. Your honest heart is bearing fruit. May God continue to lead you by His Spirit and thanks for blessing my night and reminding me that my disobedience to God can deeply affect those around me. May we walk in the light with God and man!

  6. August 5, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    I have on many occasions messed up (royally) and have had the daunting task of exposing my sin and asking for forgiveness. In those experiences asking God to forgive me was much easier than asking my friends to forgive me….however I can honestly say that I have learnt that when you have been forgiven much it is soo much easier to forgive much and without hesitation. I am thankful that God has used horrid failures to show me how much he loves me and how much he wants me to love others. Teresa x

    • Mark McGrath
      Mark McGrath
      August 8, 2014 at 9:55 am


      Jesus hints at the same thing when he says, the one who has been forgiven much, loves much. I find it so easy to be blind to how much I have needed forgiveness. That side of things can seem so artificial when not energized by the Holy Spirit.

      Thanks for being so personal.

  7. August 4, 2014 at 7:58 am

    From my own experience, I’ve found that the ability to forgive simply begins from that first point of realising just how much you, yourself, have been forgiven – I deserved ‘death’ but have been given ‘life’, I deserved ‘captivity’ but have been given ‘freedom’, I deserved nothing but have been given everything I need for life abundant.
    The only ‘hurts’ I’ve ever received were delivered by other human beings, and probably out of a place of pain, suffering or distress in their own lives, but every sin I have committed ‘hurt’ God himself, the very one who made my forgiveness, release and freedom possible in the first place – before I was even born!
    If that most holy and righteous God can forgive me so abundantly and freely, then I can definitely forgive others like me, other created beings – and what’s more, I don’t have to do in my own strength, the same Holy God has filled me with the power of His Spirit to be able to do what I could never do myself…!

    • Keith
      August 4, 2014 at 9:44 pm

      Welcome Lynn! So good to hear from you and thank you for your thoughts. God’s wisdom and truth shine through them. As Cherry and I went through our trial over the past few years, we came to very similar conclusions and they were liberating for us. Your last thought was especially encouraging – It’s His grace within that gives us the strength to forgive.

      thanks for coming and sharing and I hope to see you on the site contributing your wisdom often.

      You are loved my brother!

    • Mark McGrath
      Mark McGrath
      August 5, 2014 at 7:23 am

      So true Lynn. Sometimes in the rough and tumble of pain and offense, when we feel offended, it can be difficult to remember that we too are the offenders. And guilty of true offenses that Jesus had to die to forgive. How we need to Holy Spirit to help us.

  8. Keith
    August 3, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    Thanks for sharing and welcome to RealTalk. I hope you’ll contribute often and enjoy the conversations. We will definitely be praying. I can’t imagine the pain that Mom feels trying to imagine what those moments were like when the missile hit and the last moments of that part of her family. May God fill your mouths and be His hands and heart to that precious woman. Blessings from PA!

    Eph 3:20

  9. August 3, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    Forgiveness is the key experience of our faith position. Both the knowledge that we are forgiven and the ability to forgive those who hurt us deliberately or in ignorance come from God.

    We have been spending time with family who do not know Him or the cleansing power and it is so sad. We are soon to head off to meet my aunt who lost her son daughter in law and two sons in the plane that was shot down. Please stand with us as we seek to bring Gods rhema word.

    • Mark McGrath
      Mark McGrath
      August 4, 2014 at 7:08 am

      Tina and Harry,

      Thank you both for joining the conversation and for inviting us into the struggles your aunt is forced to face. When tragedy of this sort imposes itself on our lives it can feel so senseless. We will be praying for you to know an outpouring of compassion and the wisdom of a powerful love. We stand with you.

  10. Keith
    August 3, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    It simply takes the grace of God to forgive as we have been forgiven.

    This morning we were looking Luke 7:36f and saw how Jesus relates our ability to love with the extent we know His forgiveness. He concluded: “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

    Our growth in love, or Christlikeness, requires a deepening of forgiveness. Our brothers and sisters in Sierra Leone, Rwanda and elsewhere have raised a high bar for the depth of forgiveness we must embrace. They reflect the One who from the cross called, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”

    “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

  11. August 3, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    I’ve been thinking about forgiveness too. My mum has demonstrated over the years how she has lived this following the death of my brother 29 years ago and more recently my dad. Both died in circumstances that were ‘unfair’ and both could’ve received much better treatment and care than they did. Mistakes were made. Much room for regret,holding on to hurt, bitterness and certainly unforgiveness against individuals.
    However, she learned way back that to hold anything against the people that were involved would only destroy her, and she was not willing to do that.
    She kept her faith ,and just this week she told me she was having ‘a moment’ as she was marking another anniversary of losing her loved ones. As she stood at the sink, bringing the grief that had suddenly sprung up, as it still does,before God, she had a sensation that she wasn’t alone.A powerful sensation swept over her body, she felt someone was with her, and turned and saw Jesus clearly in the kitchen! He said ‘All is well’ and went. How amazing that He met her in the middle of her grief.
    I thank God that He carried the pain that has allowed us to forgive.
    There was another time when someone stood by and watched as someone He loved suffered and died without due cause in circumstances that weren’t fair.
    It was directly after my brother died that I decided to follow Jesus. In the middle of the hardest times, we are invited to turn and find Him there.

    • Keith
      August 3, 2014 at 4:29 pm

      Your Mum sounds like an amazing lady. He’s been there with her through all the times of grief. Clearly she has fought the good fight of faith to maintain a pure, forgiving heart. And to think He came to her while she’s doing one of the most mundane chores – to bring healing, comfort and cheer. WHAT A SAVIOUR!

      thanks for sharing and joining the conversation!

    • Mark McGrath
      Mark McGrath
      August 3, 2014 at 5:11 pm

      Amanda – How powerful. A clear example that forgiving is supernatural in both its cause and its effect on us. The forgiving doesn’t “make everything better” but it opens the door to our ability the One who cares for us in our pains. Amazing! Thanks for sharing that wonderful story with us.

    • August 4, 2014 at 4:15 am

      Amanda,could you share this one Sunday ,it is so clear and powerful

  12. Mark McGrath
    Mark McGrath
    August 3, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Forgiveness can feel dangerous to the one who has been wronged. Can I really let go of these feelings toward the one who wounded me? Will I be devaluing my own need and pain? Am I condoning the actions of the offender? Forgiveness can seem fairly simple when the offenses are slight, but so expensive when the offense creates a life-altering consequence in the one offended. These victims in Sierra Leone, sharing life with those who murdered their loved ones takes the conversation out of the realm of trite religious platitudes and takes it into the deepest pockets of our human struggle.

    It is at this level that Life impact life at the core. Wow!

  13. August 3, 2014 at 10:21 am

    We’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of understanding what it means to forgive, and what God’s forgiveness is really all about.

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