Characteristics of Forgiveness

Posted: May 31, 2011 in Ministry, South Bay Church

This Sunday in my message at South Bay Church I taught about forgiveness and gave several key characteristics about forgiveness.  I have listed below a brief recap of the main idea of the Scripture passage I used, the concepts I taught about forgiveness, and the key characteristics.  If you would like to listen to my message you can download it on the South Bay Church website under the Media tab or you can listen by clicking HERE.  The message is in the One Life series and is titled “Regret Free Relationships.”

The passage studied is Matthew 18-21-35, when Jesus is teaching the disciples about forgiveness through a parable (a story used to communicate a spiritual truth).  Jesus gives the main point of the parable in 18:35, which can summed up in four words: “Forgiven People, Forgive People.”

What is forgiveness?  I asked this question and answered it with this statement: “Forgiveness is a vertical commitment followed by a horizontal transaction.”  (This concept is taken from “What Did You Expect??” by Paul Tripp.  This is a fantastic book for any married couple and I highly recommend it.  Click HERE for the link.)

  • Vertical Commitment – This is the idea of first bringing the offense to God and allowing him to be the one who takes care of the judgement.  This MEANS that we no longer carry the wrong in the form of bitterness, nor do we seek personal retaliation against the other person.  This DOES NOT MEAN that the person who has wronged us gets let off of the hook and is not accountable for their actions.  We must first come to God to allow him to work on our heart, so that we can go to the person who has wronged us with a heart and attitude that is kind, patient, loving, merciful, and filled with grace.  This only happens when we start with God.
  • Horizontal Transaction – This is the act of going to the other person to relationally forgive them.  This can only come after we have gone to God first (vertical).  In this process we come to them with a right heart and attitude to seek reconciliation in the relationship.  The goal is that the other person will confess and ask for forgiveness then allowing us to forgive them.  However, there may be times where the other person will not admit their wrong and the process seems incomplete.  If this happens you must remember that you are not responsible FOR them, but you are responsible TO them to hold them accountable.  You cannot change them, but you can do your part.

Characteristics of Forgiveness:  Many people have misconceptions about forgiveness and I listed these key characteristics with the goal that people will begin to understand what forgiveness is and what forgiveness is not.  (Many of the characteristics on this list came from an article written by Rose Sweet.  Click HERE to view her article.)

  • We forgive every time.
  • We forgive even if they don’t repent.
  • We don’t always have to tell someone we forgave him or her.
  • Forgiveness starts with a conscious decision.
  • Forgiveness does not mean we let the offender off the hook.
  • Forgiveness is not letting the offense recur again and again.
  • Forgiveness is not the same as reconciling.
  • Forgiveness is not based on the other party’s actions, but on out attitude.
  • Forgiveness is not needed for accidents.
  • Withholding forgiveness is a refusal to let go of perceived power.

All of these statements and characteristics about forgiveness are great principles to be implemented into any relationship, however they can never be fully implemented until you have had a life changing encounter with Jesus.  The Bible teaches us that we forgive because God has forgiven us through Jesus, when we place our faith in him.  You can work to implement these principles in your relationships, but you must first answer the question: “Have I personally experienced the forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ?”

  1. Caleb says:

    Hey David,
    I am A Grade 10 student in Australia, I have found this useful for My Bible assignment at school!
    You have some good answers!

  2. Kathy Wherry says:

    Thank you so much for that. Continue to spead the good word like this. You never know who might need it.

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