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*Frequently asked questions*

The Bible, the written word of God, is our sole authority in answering all questions pertaining to our spiritual life. However, in reading the Bible, we must keep in mind that the Bible is not written like a book of science where each statement is exact and complete in itself, nor like a book of law where the goal is to elaborate matters in sections and sub-sections so as to avoid loopholes. The Bible is written for the heart, and can be understood in its proper sense only by those who are spiritually minded (1Co.2:14), and who desire to do the will of God once it is revealed (Jn.7:17). Those who want to argue against the word of God can always find arguments, and those who do not want to obey what God says can appear to find words of God themselves to support their stand. Please read the following with an open heart and a willingness to know God's ways and obey them. - Jacob Ninan


1. What is really involved in forgiveness?

In simple words, to forgive somebody is to take away his guilt (De.21:8). As a result, anger against him and the desire for punishment are also taken away (De.29:20). When God forgives us, He declares us "Not guilty" and takes away the wrath and punishment we deserve. This is the same thing we should do towards those we forgive.

2. I have confessed my sins to God. But I am not sure if God has forgiven me.

Of course, confession is not a mechanical thing you do. It should come from your heart. You would feel sorry about your sins, and repent from them, sincerely wishing not to commit them again. Then when you confess them to God and ask for forgiveness in the name of Jesus - because Jesus has already died as a punishment for those sins - you have God's assurance that He will forgive you (1Jn.1:9). If your sin has affected someone else and you sincerely feel sorry about it, you will ask that person also for forgiveness, and you will also try to restore whatever has been lost due to that sin.

It is good if you feel cleansed after you confess your sins. But even if you don't feel any difference, you can safely believe that if you have done your part, i.e., confess your sins, God will surely do His part, i.e. forgive your sin. Don't let the devil accuse you afterwards with his lies.

3. I have confessed my sins to God. But I remember again and again what I have done, and I can't forgive myself.

Are you expecting to be acceptable to God because you are good? And then, of course, you feel bad because you know you have done wrong. Forget it, no one can be good enough for God (Ro.3:20). Our only option is to be accepted as a gift because of God's love and mercy (Ep.2:1-9). Once we accept ourselves as sinners in God's eyes and then receive this gift of forgiveness by faith, we can also accept ourselves as those whom God has forgiven. Remember also, that the devil will try again and again to accuse you, reminding you of your past sins. Don't listen to his lies, because you have already been forgiven.

4. If God has forgiven my sins, why is it that I don't have victory in my life?

Forgiveness is only the first step. God takes away our guilt and gives us a clean slate. But victory is a day to day matter which needs our cooperation too. It is not something that God gives us automatically. He works in us both to will and do what pleases Him. But then we must work out what He teaches us and strengthens to do (Php.2:12,13). We can fall because of various reasons such as carelessness, unbelief, disobedience, pride, etc.

5. I try to forgive this man who has done me great harm. But I still feel very upset with him. Haven't I forgiven him?

Perhaps not. But then perhaps you have. If you are still upset with a sense of revenge, wanting some evil to come to him or wanting to teach him a lesson, you have not forgiven him from your heart. You may have only tried to forgive him in obedience to the letter of the law. Ask God to help you to forgive this man. Think of how much God had to forgive you (Ep.4:32). If you forgive someone from your heart you will let him go free.

On the other hand, even if you have forgiven somebody from the heart, it may be that your emotions do not follow your will immediately. You feel the hurt and the pain of what you have suffered, and it may take some time for you to get over your feelings. But make sure you don't have any desire for vengeance.

6. I think I have forgiven somebody from my heart. But I just don't seem to be able to forget what he has done to me.

We must be realistic. As long as our brain is functioning well, we will not be able to deliberately forget anything. The more we try to forget it, the more firmly rooted it becomes in our mind! But God does not ask us to forget it. He asks us to forgive the other person from the heart as explained in the first question above.

The devil is also not going to let you forget your hurt in a hurry! He will keep reminding you again and again about how much you have had to suffer, how evil it was of the other person to do this to you, etc.! But he will go away after sometime if he finds that you are not responding to him. Each time you resist his suggestions, you will find that the power of the temptation becomes less and less, till finally it stops bothering you.

7. It is easy to say we must forgive others. But I just can't forgive this man.

No one said it is easy to forgive others. Sometimes you may suffered great injustice, pain or irreparable damage from someone. You may think such a man does not deserve any forgiveness. It may look humanly impossible to forgive him. But think of how Jesus forgave those were treating Him most unjustly and cruelly (Lk.23:34). Think of how He helped Stephen to forgive those who were stoning him to death (Ac.7:60). Think of how God has helped thousands of people through the centuries to forgive their enemies. Ask God to help you to forgive.

Do you want God to forgive you? You cannot ask God to forgive you if you are not willing to forgive others (Mt.6:12,14,15). Think of how God gave His own Son to die in order to be able to forgive you. Is it too much then for you to forgive someone else?

8. This man has done wrong to me, but he has not repented about it. In fact he does not even recognise that he has done wrong. Why should I forgive him?

As a Man, Jesus forgave people who were being cruel to Him and planning to kill Him. He did not wait for them to repent before He forgave them. We have no right not to forgive others, because we ourselves are dependent on God's mercy. Only God has a right to demand repentance before forgiving us, because He is the One who has laid down the laws (Jas.4:12).

9. This man does wrong to me and comes and says he is sorry. But I know he will do it again. Why should I forgive him?

Jesus said that even if a man came to us and told us he was sorry for his sins and did it again 490 times a day, we were to forgive him. We have no right not to forgive, and who knows when he would truly repent? (Mt.18:21,22;Lk.17:4). Perhaps your kindness will provoke him to repent.

10. I have forgiven somebody. But I want him to get punished so that he will learn a lesson.

If your attitude is such that you want the blessings for having forgiven others, but you don't want them to get away with it, your forgiveness is not real or from the heart. See Question 1. Real forgiveness does not desire evil to come upon the others but only good.

11. I have forgiven somebody. But he is going to be arrested and may be sent to prison.

Punishment for crime is a subject for governments. That is necessary for the working of the society. Your forgiveness does not exclude the consequences this man has to face for the crime he has committed. Your duty is to forgive him and keep your heart in love on a personal level.

12. I have asked someone for forgiveness. But he does not forgive me. How can the relationship be restored?

Relationships involve at least two persons. You are not fully responsible for them because you do not have control over other people's lives. The Bible is realistic in asking us to be at peace with others so far as it lies with us (Ro.12:18). You can pray for this person, and also continue to be gracious to him. Perhaps he will recognise your sincerity after some time.

13. Some people say that if I have forgiven somebody I should treat him just as if he has not done anything wrong to me.

Relationships are built on mutual confidence. If this person has truly repented from his sin, there is no reason why you should deal with him just as if nothing has happened. But if there is no repentance on his part, it may even be foolish at times to treat him like that, because you never know what else he might do to you. We must make a difference between our heart attitude and our external dealings with other people. Our heart must be free from all malice, revenge, grudges, etc., and we must want the best for them. But their own attitudes and behaviour may put contraints on our response.

14. The Bible says God will not remember our sins anymore. Then why do we still suffer from those sins?

Forgiveness takes away our guilt and God's wrath against us. But we will still have to reap the consequences of our sins (Ga.6:7,8). These may be physical results of our sinful actions, loss of reputation, punishment from earthly authorities, effects on those around us, etc. These are not "punishments" from God for our sin. God may also chastise (discipline) us in some way in order to teach us not to sin again. This is a mark of His love, and not anger (He.12:6).

God does not forget our sins. It is impossible for God to forget anything. What He says is that He will not remember them anymore (He.8:12). It means that He will not bring them up or hold them against us anymore.

15. Some people teach that it is possible for God to take back our forgiveness. How can that be?

That is what Jesus said in a parable in Mt.18:23-35. In this story, there was a servant to whom the king forgave a the debt of a large amount of money. But when this servant would not forgive another servant who owed him a comparatively small amount of money, the king took back the forgiveness that he had given at first. Then Jesus said, "So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart." The simple meaning is that after we have been forgiven by God, if we will not forgive someone else, God will withdraw our own forgiveness. Does this look hard to believe? Think of it this way. If we are not able to forgive someone else his sin, it shows we have not recognised on what basis God has forgiven us. If we are not willing to treat the others on the same basis, God will withdraw His forgiveness. That is the plain meaning of this parable.

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