What Do the Scriptures Say About Forgiveness and Unforgiveness?

[Editor's Note: This article is the fourth in a five-part series on the theme “Being a Man of Forgiveness.” Click here to read the first article, second article, and third article]

When it comes to forgiveness, how easy it is for us as men to say, “I want mercy for myself (God please forgive me), but I want justice for others (they must be punished for what they did).” Or perhaps we will say (or think), “I can’t forgive that person until he says he’s sorry.” This is not the Gospel. Jesus’ disposition was to forgive all those who betrayed him, rejected him, and beat him. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” In fact, unforgiveness is contrary to the message of the Gospel. “Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who is not merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).

Jesus did not mince words on the seriousness of the sin of unforgiveness. Why? Because he knew that his Father would forgive us only to the extent we have forgiven others. Here are some of the words of Jesus on the importance of forgiveness and the seriousness of unforgiveness.

Matthew 6:12-15:

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 18:21-22

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”

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

Matthew 18:34-35

In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

[These words of Jesus come at the end of his parable on the merciful and unmerciful servant. It is a wonderful parable showing the mercy of God toward us and our need to show mercy to others.]

Mark 11:25

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

Luke 6:37

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

Luke 11:4

Forgive us our sins,

for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.

And lead us not into temptation.

The following passages from the letters of St. Paul to the Ephesians and Colossians sums up the meaning of Jesus’ words on forgiveness.
Ephesians 4:32

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Colossians 3:13-14

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

James 2:13

Mercy triumphs over justice!

[This article by Maurice Blumberg was part of the Catholic Men’s E-zine, Being a Man of Forgiveness, (September – October 2002 issue) which is available on the NFCM website. You may e-mail them at info@nfcmusa.org.]

Reflection Questions on Page 2

Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men

1. The words on forgiveness in the Scriptures, especially those of Jesus, demonstrate the importance placed on forgiveness by God. Why do you believe this is so?

2. How have these Scriptures impacted your view of forgiveness and unforgiveness?

3. Spend some time reflecting on the words of scripture above and then ask the Lord to reveal any unforgiveness in your heart. If he does, then perhaps your men’s group can enter into a time of repentance. Ask the Lord to forgive you for the sin of unforgiveness. Then forgive unconditionally any persons who are the object of your unforgiveness. Try to get to the Sacrament of Reconciliation as soon as you can as well.


Maurice Blumberg is the Director of Partner Relations for The Word Among Us Partners, (http://www.waupartners.org/), a ministry of The Word Among Us (www.wau.org) to the Military, Prisoners, and women with crisis pregnancies or who have had abortions. Maurice was also the founding Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.nfcmusa.org/), for which he is currently a Trustee. He can be contacted at mblumberg@wau.org or mblumberg@aol.com.

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