9 Questions to Determine if You Need to Forgive Someone

I’m convinced one of Satan’s tools in the North American church is to influence believers to get angry at each other – and stay that way. He knows that we will never threaten his kingdom as long as we’re shooting each other in the back (Matt 6:14-15).

As you prepare for worship this weekend, take some time to answer these questions to see if you need to forgive someone. If you do, take a look at my earlier post for suggestions on how to forgive.

  1. Has someone deeply hurt me or one of my family members? Many of us must answer “yes” to this question – which means that we also must (or have had to in the past) decide what we will do with our pain. Thus, we must ask the following questions, too. . . .
  2. Do I still get angry or anxious when I think about that person? The pain may be so recent that you’ve simply not fully worked through it yet, or it might be that you’re just holding on to it because you feel justified in doing so. 
  3. If that person has already passed away, am I justifying my continued anger? "He or she’s gone, so what’s the big deal about dealing with my feelings now?" you think.  
  4. Do I quietly hope that that person also hurts like I have? That’s a harsh question, I know, but I’ve known people who would only “forgive” after their offender also experienced some kind of similar pain.  
  5. Would I help that person if he or she needed ministry? An unwillingness to serve a perceived enemy is an indication of a disobedient heart.
  6. Can I pray for that person? I don’t mean a “may God get you” prayer, of course. If that person is a non-believer, can you pray for him or her to be saved? If he or she is a believer, can you pray that God will use him or her for His glory? 
  7. Would I be frustrated if God blesses that person? If you would dare wonder what God would be thinking if He blessed your enemy, your heart is out of tune with Him.
  8. Will I probably avoid that person at church this weekend? If so, you know you still have some forgiveness work to do. 
  9. Am I willing for this post to confront me and convict me? What you do with this post will show you something about where you are. Increased anger is a sign that you need the Lord to keep working on your heart this weekend.

If you need to forgive somebody and would like us to pray for you, let us know. 

12 Comments

  • Ken says:

    I’m not asking this question to stir up debate, but because I genuinely want to know your opinion. Is it scriptural to forgive someone that hasn’t repented? I’ve been asked this question many times, and I’ve been unsure how to respond. I can see where they’re coming from, but I also think it become a convenient excuse for those that stubbornly refuse to forgive. What are your thoughts?

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      I agree with D. A. Carson that the Bible assumes we will forgive the offender, though the result is different based on the offender’s level of repentance. Where repentance is genuine, reconciliation is the result. Where no repentance takes place, reconciliation doesn’t occur — but I cannot use that lack of reconciliation as an excuse for not forgiving. Of course, as you note, this discussion has provoked much debate.  

      • Ken says:

        Yeah, that’s kind of how I see it. I understand the argument about not forgiving people that refuse to repent, but at the same time, I try to remind people that hanging on to bitterness does a lot more harm than good. Your distinction between forgiveness and reconciliation helps me put it in the right perspective. Thanks for the reply!

  • zarae says:

    how does one forgive or understand forgiveness of a perpetrator when they are dead and have been dead?

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      In that case, we simply confess and let go of any bitterness that we’ve allowed to control us.  

  • Christine says:

    My pastor always says, “holding onto bitterness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies”.

  • David says:

    I often have thought about this issue…. What if a person had done something that deeply hurt you and they never ask for forgiveness nor apologize. Or they give a half-hearted apology. Then that person’s actions makes you bitter toward them. What is my responsibility to forgive them? What if that eats at you, causes you to lose sleep, etc.? I appreciate the “just let it go” answer, but for some, that’s easier said than done.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      I know it’s hard to let it go (impossible, in fact, apart from God’s love), but we cannot let our bitterness to eat at us until we lose sleep. That’s evidence of what the enemy wants to accomplish — to rob us of our joy via somebody else’s actions. 

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