What is forgiveness? Should I forgive anyone who does me harm? How can I forgive someone who has hurt me deeply? Do I need to ask others to forgive me? These are some of the questions we've been exploring recently at Grace Church Brockley.
When we start looking at the area of forgiveness we quickly realise is it far more complex than it at first seems. Why not spend some time thinking about it using the resources below? Start with the quiz, then listen to the talks to see how your answers line up with what the Bible teaches us.
1. Forgiveness is mainly a personal strategy for dealing with feelings of anger or bitterness. True or False?
2. Good people get to the bottom of all their disagreements. True or False?
3. Most Christian pastors and counsellors agree about what forgiveness is and how it should take place. True or False?
4. Forgiveness occurs properly only when certain conditions are met. True or False?
5. Jesus said little about how people should resolve interpersonal conflict. True or False?
6. A willingness to forgive is a test of whether or not a person will go to heaven when he or she dies. True or False?
7. Personal happiness and joy can legitimately motivate people to live out what the Bible teaches about forgiveness. True or False?
8. There are times when it is wrong to forgive. True or False?
9. There may be times in my life when it is appropriate and necessary to forgive God. True or False?
10. Where deep wounds between people are concerned, forgiveness can be unpacked in a moment. True or False?
If you'd like to download a copy of this quiz, please click below.Forgiveness Quiz - May 2018.pdf
What does God teach us about Forgiveness? Our minister, Ray Brown, gave a series of four talks looking at what the Bible tells us. To listen to these, visit our sermon archive and search for 'The difficult doctrine of forgiveness'.
Where's the sermon archive? Go to the LEARN menu above and select 'Talks + Sermons'.
Corrie Ten Boom shows us what one particular act of forgiveness looked like for her in the extract below.
“It was in a church in Munich that I saw him—a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.
“It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown. ‘When we confess our sins,’ I said, ‘God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. “The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947. People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room.
“And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!
[Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent.] “Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: ‘A fine message, Fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!’
“And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course—how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women? “But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.
“ ‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying, ‘I was a guard there.’ No, he did not remember me.“ ‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I
would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein,’ again the hand came out—’will you forgive me?’
“And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking? “It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
“For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’ “I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.
“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’
“And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. “ ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’
“For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then”
(excerpted from “I’m Still Learning to Forgive” by Corrie ten Boom. Reprinted by permission from Guideposts Magazine. Copyright © 1972 by Guideposts Associates, Inc., Carmel, New York 10512.