5 Life-Changing Stories Of Forgiveness In The Bible

5 Life-Changing Stories Of Forgiveness In The Bible July 6, 2024


Hand out in front holding small yellow flower
Are you struggling with unforgiveness and resentment in relationships? Here are 5 Life-Changing Stories Of Forgiveness In The Bible. // Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

Throughout the Bible, we can see that God values forgiveness. The story of forgiveness starts with God’s forgiveness of humanity and includes our need to forgive others.

Recently, during my prayer time, I had to confess the unforgiveness I had in my heart toward others. I had to forgive again for something I had forgiven in the past. But somehow, the emotions were triggered, and I realized my heart towards these people was not filled with compassion but anger and resentment. That’s how forgiveness is sometimes. Jesus mentioned we need to forgive each other seventy-seven times, and He is why I choose to forgive others repeatedly.

The moment you become a Christian, you learn about the transformative power of forgiveness because you are forgiven when you don’t deserve to be. You learn quickly that you can never change what you’ve done, but through Jesus, you can find redemption and forgiveness for your sins.

There is no other way to have a close relationship with God. You need to believe that God has granted forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Once you have done that, you must walk through this life of faith, growing in God’s love for you through the sanctification process.

The best part about God’s forgiveness is that it is a free gift to anyone who is willing to receive it by believing in and following Jesus. Faith and forgiveness are the foundation of the Christian faith. As Christians, we must understand the power of forgiveness in our own lives to realize that forgiving others and walking in God’s grace will change our lives for the better!

True Forgiveness Cannot Be Earned

It is impossible to make up for or change what has already been done. When you feel the conviction and regret of past mistakes, you will justify your actions, or you will be plagued with regret. There is no escaping the consequences of your actions in your mind if you don’t have forgiveness. This is why the only condition to the path of forgiveness is accepting the free gift that Jesus gave us. If Jesus is not in the picture when it comes to your forgiveness or when you forgive others, then there will always be conditions and standards that are impossible to meet.

Forgiveness Is An Act Of Surrender

When you accept God’s forgiveness, you surrender your mistakes to God and His gift of forgiveness. On the other hand, when you forgive someone else, you are surrendering to God and inviting Him into the situation that is causing you pain. God’s grace covers forgiveness. It is not always easy to talk about.

The Bible clearly states that God will not forgive us if we do not forgive others:

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. – Matthew 6:14-15 (WEB)

Jesus is an example of how we should live out our faith and treat people who have hurt us. God’s grace is essential for walking the narrow path of forgiveness.

5 Life-Changing Stories Of Forgiveness In The Bible

The Bible provides many examples of forgiveness. In 1 Samuel 24 and 26, we learn how King David spared King Saul’s life even though Saul was trying to kill David. In Psalm 32:5 it says:

I acknowledged my sin to you.
I didn’t hide my iniquity.
I said, I will confess my transgressions to Yahweh,
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
For this, let everyone who is godly pray to you in a time when you may be found.
Surely when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach to him.

We all need forgiveness. That is why it is important to reflect on the following stories from the Bible and learn about the importance of forgiveness.

Joseph And His Brothers

In Genesis, we learn about Joseph’s story of forgiveness:

Then Joseph couldn’t control himself before all those who stood before him, and he called out, “Cause everyone to go out from me!” No one else stood with him, while Joseph made himself known to his brothers. He wept aloud. The Egyptians heard, and the house of Pharaoh heard.  Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Does my father still live?”

His brothers couldn’t answer him; for they were terrified at his presence.  Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.”

They came near. He said, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. Now don’t be grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are yet five years, in which there will be no plowing and no harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to save you alive by a great deliverance. So now it wasn’t you who sent me here, but God, and he has made me a father to Pharaoh, lord of all his house, and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry, and go up to my father, and tell him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says, “God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me. Don’t wait. You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you will be near to me, you, your children, your children’s children, your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. There I will provide for you; for there are yet five years of famine; lest you come to poverty, you, and your household, and all that you have.”’ Behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin, that it is my mouth that speaks to you. You shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and of all that you have seen. You shall hurry and bring my father down here.” He fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. He kissed all his brothers, and wept on them. After that his brothers talked with him. – Genesis 45:1-15 (WEB)

Joseph’s brothers sold him to slavery because they were jealous. Joseph went through a lot of betrayal before he became the second in command over Egypt. In this story, we can see how Joseph not only kept his faith in God through all the trials he faced but also trusted God when forgiving his brothers.

In the story of Joseph, he forgave his brothers, and he also blessed them. Even though Joseph fell victim to the evil actions of his brothers, he also knew that everything he went through was what allowed him to be in the position he was in at that time. Joseph’s deep faith in God helped him see how everything worked together for his good and that God kept His promise.

I know it would be ideal if we could go through life and reach our calling without having to endure hardships or be hurt by other people. But it is a part of the journey because this life will not be perfect on this side of heaven. However, we can learn a lot from Joseph—don’t give up on your faith because of the pain and betrayal in this life—keep your faith and trust in the promises of God.

Parable Of The Prodigal Son

In Luke, Jesus shares a parable about the Prodigal Son:

He said, “A certain man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of your property.’ So he divided his livelihood between them. Not many days after, the younger son gathered all of this together and traveled into a far country. There he wasted his property with riotous living. When he had spent all of it, there arose a severe famine in that country, and he began to be in need. He went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed pigs. He wanted to fill his belly with the husks that the pigs ate, but no one gave him any. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough to spare, and I’m dying with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will tell him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight. I am no more worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants.”’

“He arose, and came to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe, and put it on him. Put a ring on his hand, and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let’s eat, and celebrate; for this, my son, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found.’ Then they began to celebrate.

“Now his elder son was in the field. As he came near to the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the servants to him, and asked what was going on. He said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and healthy.’ But he was angry, and would not go in. Therefore his father came out, and begged him. But he answered his father, ‘Behold, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed a commandment of yours, but you never gave me a goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this your son came, who has devoured your living with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’

“He said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But it was appropriate to celebrate and be glad, for this, your brother, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found.’ – Luke 15:11-32 (WEB)

This parable illustrates God’s love for us and how it’s never too late to return home to Him. But I also look to this parable as an example of how to love and forgive those around me.

In this parable, we see the heart of a loving father who wants what is best for his son. Even though his son commits a serious sin and dishonors him, the father never loses compassion for him. This parable is a beautiful picture of how to have boundaries in relationships, where you may love someone dearly even though they have hurt you or walked away.

The father in this parable allowed his son to make his choices and respected his free will to do what he wanted to do even though the father knew better.

The Prodigal Son left home, and even though the father loved him very much, he did not go after him. This is a powerful illustration of what it looks like to have the courage to forgive from a distance. Forgiveness does not require you to remain in hurtful or sinful environments.

However, forgiveness gives you hope that one day, if you want, the relationship will be reconciled. Forgiveness is the only way any relationship can be reconciled. If the father had not forgiven his son before he saw his son walking down that road back home, then there would’ve never been a celebration for his return.

It makes my heart very sad thinking about how the story would’ve gone if the dad had held a grudge or the son had decided never to come home. Not only did the father forgive the son, but the son had to have the courage to ask for forgiveness. In this parable, forgiveness allows a family to be restored again.

Jesus And The Woman Caught In The Act Of Adultery

In John chapter 8, we learn about how Jesus responds to a woman caught in adultery—this is not a parable; this is a historical event that took place:

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Now very early in the morning, he came again into the temple, and all the people came to him. He sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman taken in adultery. Having set her in the middle, they told him, “Teacher, we found this woman in adultery, in the very act. Now in our law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.(Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22What then do you say about her?” They said this testing him, that they might have something to accuse him of.

But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he looked up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw the first stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground with his finger.

They, when they heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning from the oldest, even to the last. Jesus was left alone with the woman where she was, in the middle. Jesus, standing up, saw her and said, “Woman, where are your accusers? Did no one condemn you?”

She said, “No one, Lord.”

Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way. From now on, sin no more.” – John 8:1-11 (WEB)

It is so interesting that when the Pharisees brought the woman to Jesus, He didn’t say a word; He just drew a line in the ground. In this story, it seems the Pharisees had so much to say, and they already had a plan for what they should do to someone who had sinned. But Jesus didn’t say a word back at first.

What is it like when someone sins against you or lives a sinful life?

I know I have a lot of words to say, and sometimes, I go to other people and hope they will join in my conversation and help me justify my hurt and anger. However, our judgment of other people must be a confession to the Lord, not a justification to condemn. Instead of casting stones, we need to do what Jesus did and draw a line in the sand that says, “NO,” I will not judge or condemn them.

When Jesus drew a line in the sand, He showed us where the judgment stops. The Pharisees brought the adulterous woman to Jesus, and that’s where it needed to end. That’s what you need to do when you see the sinful life of someone else: bring them to Jesus in prayer. Then, step away because no one is justified to cast stones on anyone.

Jesus illustrated how our realization of our own sin allows us to turn away from condemning others for the sin they have committed against us or God. Their consciences were convicted because they remembered their own sin. The realization that we all need God’s mercy will soften the heart of anyone who is walking in unforgiveness toward someone else.

Jesus Forgiving Sins

In Mark 2:1-12 we learn how Jesus forgives sins:

When he entered again into Capernaum after some days, it was heard that he was at home. Immediately many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even around the door; and he spoke the word to them. Four people came, carrying a paralytic to him. When they could not come near to him for the crowd, they removed the roof where he was. When they had broken it up, they let down the mat that the paralytic was lying on. Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”

But there were some of the scribes sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak blasphemies like that? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you reason these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to tell the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven;’ or to say, ‘Arise, and take up your bed, and walk?’ But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—“I tell you, arise, take up your mat, and go to your house.”

He arose, and immediately took up the mat and went out in front of them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” – Mark 2:1-12 (WEB)

Another example of Jesus forgiving sins is in Luke chapter 7:

One of the Pharisees invited him to eat with him. He entered into the Pharisee’s house, and sat at the table. Behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that he was reclining in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. Standing behind at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and she wiped them with the hair of her head, kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “This man, if he were a prophet, would have perceived who and what kind of woman this is who touches him, that she is a sinner.”

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

He said, “Teacher, say on.”

“A certain lender had two debtors. The one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they couldn’t pay, he forgave them both. Which of them therefore will love him most?”

Simon answered, “He, I suppose, to whom he forgave the most.”

He said to him, “You have judged correctly.” Turning to the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered into your house, and you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave me no kiss, but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss my feet. You didn’t anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Those who sat at the table with him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” – Luke 7:36-50 (WEB)

In these forgiveness scriptures you can see that Jesus was capable and willing to forgive.

Here are three lessons we can learn about forgiveness from the scriptures outlined here:

  1. Jesus has the authority to forgive sins. He is proving to everyone watching that He is the mediator between God and humanity when it comes to forgiveness of sins.
  2. The importance of faith. You need to trust in Jesus’ ability and authority to forgive sins and bring healing to your life.
  3. Mercy and compassion. Remember the mercy and compassion Jesus has shown you so you will have that seed to plant when forgiving someone else.

Forgiving others requires having faith in Jesus and living a life always remembering that you have been forgiven through God’s grace, mercy, and compassion.

Parable Of The Unforgiving Servant

In Matthew chapter 18, Jesus tells about the parable of the unmerciful servant:

Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Until seven times?”

Jesus said to him, “I don’t tell you until seven times, but, until seventy times seven. Therefore the Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. When he had begun to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But because he couldn’t pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, with his wife, his children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will repay you all!’ The lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him and forgave him the debt.

“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him one hundred denarii, and he grabbed him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’

“So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will repay you!’ He would not, but went and cast him into prison until he should pay back that which was due. So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were exceedingly sorry, and came and told their lord all that was done. Then his lord called him in and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, even as I had mercy on you?’ His lord was angry, and delivered him to the tormentors until he should pay all that was due to him. So my heavenly Father will also do to you, if you don’t each forgive your brother from your hearts for his misdeeds.” – Matthew18:21-35 (WEB)

In this verse, we can see that the King in this parable was moved with compassion and forgave his servant’s debt. However, the servant still felt entitled and did not realize the blessing he had just received. So, the servant demanded payment for an even smaller debt and did not give the forgiveness he had just received.

This parable illustrates the importance of truly understanding the depth of forgiveness in your own life. Neither servant could cancel out their debt. This is the reality for everyone. No one, not even you, can cancel your debt with God or another person. In this parable, the king has compassion for the first servant, but the servant does not show mercy to the one who owes him money.

God’s compassion in your life should allow you to show mercy toward others. I think the teachings here are not complicated to learn and know, but they are difficult to apply in your daily life. It is really easy to get caught up in offenses. However, compassion and mercy will free you from all that is holding you back.

Practical Ways You Can Show Forgiveness To Others

July 7th is Global Forgiveness Day. Days of the Year lists several practical ways you can celebrate and practice forgiveness today and every day, and they are:

  • Reach out to an estranged friend or family member.
  • Make a list of people to forgive.
  • Watch a film about forgiveness.
  • Share forgiveness experiences and stories.
  • Teach kids about forgiveness by reading a book. (ex: The Berenstain Bears and the Forgiving Tree)

Prayers For Forgiveness

Faith and forgiveness are the foundation of the Christian faith. The beauty of forgiveness is that you do not have to try to get through the pain yourself. You can always ask for God’s help.

If you are having difficulty with the forgiveness of others, read Forgiving Others: 10 Powerful Bible Verses & Prayers.

About Heather Bixler
Heather is a mom of three young adults, has been married to her husband for 22 years, and is a proud fur mom to her dog, Iris, and two cats, Picasso and Esther. Heather has her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and is pursuing her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. You can read more about the author here.
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