The Healing Power of Forgiveness

This article is by Ernie Baker and published by BCC


Humans have a disease that eats away at the soul and relationships. It is a cankerous cancer that leads to shame and brokenness, and as it consumes, it perforates our relationships with God and others. Of course this disease, this cancer, is sin. Is there a soothing medicine that brings healing?

As a counselor I experience the effects of this disease regularly. Just in the last few weeks, I have consulted on divorce, parent/child conflict, and church conflict. There is much pain associated with each of these stories as the sickness spreads.

The biblical antidote is the wonderfully soothing and healing experience of forgiveness that we remember as part of our Lord’s incarnation. This theme is so rich in Scripture that the medicine is described in multiple ways. Let’s explore two of the terms used to describe the forgiveness we receive from the Lord and then see how each applies to relationships with others. These terms describe not only the healing that comes to our perforated relationship with the Lord, they also describe healing to other relationships as well.

Here is a brief New Testament word study to help you begin to understand the implications of forgiveness and can worship our Lord who grants us this precious gift. I will also pose questions that spring from these words for our relationships with others.

Aphiemi: to send away, let it be, let it go, remove a debt, to forgive[1]

You get a sense of the power of this word when you see it in action. It is actually the word used in this famous verse. “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.”[2] It’s as if the verse is saying that he sent away his spirit. Now let’s see how this applies to us.

A verse with wonderful medicine is, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered… (Romans 4:7). How truly blessed we are that he sent away our debt. However, sin is too serious for God to just overlook it—he didn’t just make the debt disappear. He actually absorbed it himself!

Take a moment to lift praise to the Lord for choosing to send away your debt based upon what your Savior did on the cross. The more you understand the depth of forgiveness the more you will worship (see Luke 7:47-48).

This principle applies to the way we are to treat other’s offenses against us, and there are serious ramifications if we don’t! “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). In other words, our Lord is a God of Justice and gives equitable treatment. An unforgiving attitude also makes a statement about the status of your relationship with him.

Questions to ask yourself or to use with counselees: Have you made a decision to send away the debt that is owed you? Please understand that you will have to absorb some cost and please understand it is a decision, not a feeling.

If you’re not willing to forgive or having a hard time forgiving, then I would ask you to consider, “What is your fear or concern?” When I’ve asked this question of counselees I have gotten the answer that it doesn’t deem fair, or “I feel like I’m letting the person off too easily.” The biblical answer to these reservations, though, is that the Lord is a God of justice who ultimately will make all things right.

Charizdomai: to give undeserved favor, to forgive graciously[3]

I am so thankful for grace! Our Lord not only sent away our sin (which brings healing to our relationship), choosing to absorb the debt himself, he also extends this forgiveness to those who do nothing to deserve it and who do not take the initiative to receive it!

Again, it is more powerful when you see this word being used.

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses” (Colossians 2:13). This forgiveness was undeserved and oozes with grace (Ephesians 1 calls it “lavish grace”). It was kind and clearly demonstrated benevolence. It is not based upon our initiative but is based upon what Christ did.[4]

This would be a good time to worship the Lord for his undeserved grace toward you.

In Colossians 3 Paul uses the same word to describe how we should treat others when this disease hits the church body. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness…. Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive (3:12-13). What is the medicine that brings healing to “complaints”? It is gracious, undeserved, unmerited favor freely given to another just as we have been forgiven.

Questions for yourself or a counselee: Are you willing to forgive freely based upon what your Savior did for you, even though the other person does not deserve it? If not, what is this saying about your understanding of the depth of your own forgiveness from the Lord?

Scripture powerfully models the remedy for the disease that leads to brokenness in relationships. Do you want healthier, godly relationships? You can’t get much godlier than when you practice undeserved, gracious, kind, and benevolent forgiveness. What a wonderful way to have a healthy soul and relationships. How incredibly relevant to start practicing this now at Christmas!

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