How To Forgive: Essential Lessons Of Forgiveness From The Bible

Written by on August 16, 2022

The Bible is filled with scriptures that teach us how to forgive a person who has wronged us, how to ask God for forgiveness and how to journey through the pain we sometimes experience in life. In addition to these forgiveness scripture passages that guide us, there are also numerous stories that show us how well-known Bible figures came to forgiveness in their own lives.

The Old and New Testaments are filled with stories that teach us how to forgive someone, but we’ll focus on just two examples showing us the power redemption and forgiveness can bring.


The first story of forgiveness found in the Bible is the story of Joseph — son of Jacob and Rachel — as told in Genesis 37-50. We know that Joseph had many brothers and that Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children. It was this love as well as visions that Joseph was having that he would one day rule over the family that caused his brothers to resent him.

In a tragic turn of events, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and told their father wild beasts had killed him. While Joseph, who went on to work in the household of a powerful Egyptian, faced many ups and downs (including prison), he eventually rose up to become a powerful ruler in Egypt.

Eventually, years passed and famine hit. Joseph, who was in a position of power and overseeing food rations in Egypt, was in for a shock when his brothers came looking for nourishment. Years had passed and they didn’t recognize him, but he knew who they were.

It’s an incredible story, but in the end: Joseph’s reaction teaches us how to forgive someone who has deeply hurt us.

Genesis 50:15–21 (KJV) explains Joseph’s eventual response to encountering his brothers:

And when Joseph’s brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him. And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying, So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him. And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants. And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.

Joseph could have sought retribution, but instead, he showed his brothers love and forgiveness.


Luke 15:11-31 provides the well-known “Parable of the Lost Son,” one of Jesus’ parables that teaches us quite a bit about how to forgive.

It’s a story about a son who squanders all of the money that his father gives him. He ends up destitute and starving and hires himself out in an effort to get money for his basic needs.

The son then comes to a realization that he should return to his father, apologize and humble himself to work as one of his dad’s servants. Rather than chastising him, though, his father responds in love and compassion.

Luke 21-24 (KJV) offers a prime example of how to forgive someone:

And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

The young man’s older brother becomes angry at the father’s reaction and notes that he — in contrast to the younger child — had always abided by his dad, yet had never been given such benefits. And considering his younger brother’s poor behavior, he found his father’s reaction troubling.

But the dad, exuding forgiveness, said, “It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; was lost, and is found.”

This is yet another powerful example showing us all how to forgive. Considering that Christ died for the sins of humanity, the Bible makes it clear that it’s essential to also forgive others.

If you’re looking for more information on how to forgive and how to ask God for forgiveness, consider reading over the following Bible verses:

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9 (KJV)

“Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” – Colossians 3:13 (KJV)

“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” – Ephesians 1:7 (KJV)

“Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son. In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” – Colossians 1:13-14 (KJV)

“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” – Matthew 6:14-15 (KJV)

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