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The Meaning of Forgiveness

Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You can not look on wickedness with favor.
—Habakkuk 1:13

The Bible says God is willing to forgive us. What is the meaning of forgiveness?

The word “forgive” means to let go of or to surrender. When we are hurt by somebody we have a choice to make. We can hold on to the offense the person has committed against us and demand our pound of flesh from the person. Or we can choose to let go of the offense. That’s what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is letting go of your right to hurt somebody else for hurting you.

The Bible says our ability and willingness to forgive other people is directly related to God’s ability and willingness to forgive us. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Notice that we are to forgive the same way that God has forgiven us.

Do you realize God is willing and able to let go of every lie you’ve ever told, every impure thought you’ve ever had, and every time you’ve put your desire above His desire? He is willing and able to release those offenses.

Many Christians are nonchalant about God’s willingness to forgive us. “God has forgiven me through Jesus. What’s the big deal about that? Every day I forgive other people.” Every day you and I overlook the offenses of other people, don’t we? The fact is, we don’t regularly slug our boss when he mistreats us. We don’t regularly curse our mate when he or she ignores us. We don’t abandon our children when they disobey us. We tolerate the sins of other people, so what’s the big deal about God forgiving us?

The simple answer is God is not like us. The fact that we are willing to overlook other people’s sins is not a testimony to our godliness–it’s a testimony to our ungodliness. The reason we are able to overlook other people’s faults is that we have a long list of faults in our own lives. So we don’t have any trouble hanging out with other people who are sinners just like we are.

But the Bible says God is not like us. His eyes are “too pure to approve evil” (Habakkuk 1:13). That’s why Nahum 1:3 says, “The Lord will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.” That’s not good news for us, because we are all guilty. We all have messed up–and because of that we all deserve hell. But the good news is that God is willing to forgive us and enable us to spend eternity in heaven with Him.

How can a holy God possibly forgive you and me for our sins? What is the basis of God’s willingness to do that? We will find the basis of God’s forgiveness in our study tomorrow.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Our Second Act Depends on God” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2016.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.


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