What does forgiveness look like in real life?

I may not know you, but I know that you have been hurt before. In fact, I am confident to say that at some point, you’ve been hurt by someone who is really important to you.

We all have.

When hurt comes, our natural response is to defend ourselves. Sometimes, this means running away, leaving the situation, or ending the relationship. This may be healthy and necessary. At other times, we defend ourselves with words or actions, fighting back.

Even when we successfully fight the urge to defend ourselves, this is our go-to response. And we know that sometimes, it is necessary to defend ourselves or end a relationship – because forgiveness does not mean allowing someone to hurt you repeatedly. But hiding and defending do not make the hurt go away. Our real goal is to move on, to move forward, and to find healing from the hurt. For this to happen, we must figure out how to forgive the other person.

Forgiveness is a deep theme in the Bible and in the Christian life

This is because it is hugely important, and humanly impossible. It is incredibly hard to live out when it is our emotions that are hurt, our bodies that have been bruised, our loved ones that have been impacted. There is much written about the process of forgiveness, but let us turn today and see how God paints a picture of what it looks like in real life.

  • It looks like sacrifice. See Matthew 26:28 – Jesus tells his disciples to drink the cup representing his blood, “which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” When we forgive someone for hurting us, it costs us. It does not feel fair. It is a sacrifice.
  • It looks like a change in behavior. See Acts 7-9 and the story of Saul’s conversion. He was murdering Christians, and then he was sharing the gospel in the synagogues. The disciples were afraid of him, but when they saw his new life, they welcomed him.
  • It does not look like forgetfulness, but it does look like the absence of a ledger. We are not counting up hurts and wounds. See Psalm 130 – “If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness.” See 1 Corinthians 13, a faithful description of love.

This is not an exhaustive picture of forgiveness, but it is a start. Are you struggling to forgive someone today? I encourage you to take it to the Lord in prayer. He has already forgiven you for far more. Are you longing for forgiveness with someone today? I encourage you to go to them humbly, confess and apologize and ask for forgiveness, and leave it in the Lord’s hands to work out.


Written by Jessica Hayes
iHope Executive Director