Forgiveness 101

By: Michael C. Carson Local Columnist

Forgiveness is when we cease to feel the need to be resentful, vengeful, or angry because of what another person did to us.

In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus is very clear about his thoughts on us forgiving each other. While we are sometimes wronged, we also, by omission or commission, by thought, word, and deed, wrong others.

St. Augustine shared, concerning St. Matthew 6:14-15,

“This text is a terrible petition,” He points out if one prays these words while harboring an unforgiving spirit, one really is asking God not to forgive them.

“Praying, ‘Forgive us and our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors’ while refusing to forgive those who have wronged you, becomes a self-inflicted curse. In that case you are really saying, ‘O God, since I have not forgiven my neighbor, please do not forgive me.’”

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, which says, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors,” we are asking God to forgive our sins according to the same standard we have used in forgiving the sins of others. The most important word in this petition is the word ‘as.’ This prayer hangs on the meaning of “as,” which joins the first half of the petition with the second half.

When Jesus says “as,” he is setting up a comparison between the way we forgive and the way God forgives us. Forgiving others is the duty of a Christian.

There are many verses on the subject of forgiveness. For example, Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Another example is Luke 23:34, depicting Jesus on the cross saying, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

A sermon on, “Unless You Forgive,” talks about transformation through repentance.

“True repentance always starts with a change of mind that leads to a change of heart that leads to a change in the way we view those who have sinned against us,” the sermon wrote.

If we were in a class today, the course title would be “Forgiveness 101.” Today I present you with the most basic and essential truth concerning the gift of forgiveness.

When we do not forgive, we bind ourselves up. As long as we hold on to resentment, we are chained to the past by it. By refusing to forgive, we block God’s blessings to flow freely in our life.

It is not always easy to forgive but please work through it. Determine to forgive others and yourself, according to God’s will.

The primary text for our class on forgiveness today is Matthew 18:21-35, the parable of the Unmerciful Servant.

Peter asked Jesus how many times he needs to forgive someone, if up to seven times would be sufficient.

“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’”

Make a list of persons who, for whatever reason you are angry with, or who have offended you. Ask for God’s forgiveness and strive to live a life of forgiveness. Claim God’s blessings for yourself. Expect God’s blessings to flow in and through you because you freed yourself by freeing someone else.

In a Twlight Zone sense, Brother Charles McCoskey in his “McCoskovian Theory” points out: "If we do not forgive, we break the same bridge we must cross."

Peace with justice, be blessed real, real good, attend worship, and families matter.

Dr. Carson pastors St. Paul A.M.E. Church in Indianapolis. He is the founder of “Refreshing,” a ministry for pastors, ministers and laity needing restoration, refreshing and healing: a personal and professional development ministry. He can be reached at

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