Forgiveness is a big topic. Don’t be surprised if you have lots of questions. This page offers some thoughts and Bible teaching on some of them. Make sure you also ask your questions to your Scripture Reader, Chaplain or another Christian you know. They will be able to talk with you more about the truth of God’s forgiveness.


What if I don’t ‘feel’ forgiven by God?

If I have been forgiven by God, why am I still suffering from past mistakes?

Does God really forgive people who have done terrible things? Surely it is too late for me to say sorry.

What about people who have hurt me?

Is there anything God won’t forgive?

What if I don’t ‘feel’ forgiven by God?

Most of us struggle with feelings of guilt and shame. Even when we have genuinely said sorry to God for the things we have done, and asked Jesus to be our Saviour, we can feel unforgiven. We might fear that we have been rejected by God and gone ‘too far’ with the things we have done.

When feelings of guilt attack us—and they will—we need to remind ourselves that our forgiveness does not depend on how we feel. Old wounds, stupid decisions or shameful circumstances can pop into our minds at any time. And suddenly we’ll feel useless or horrible—assuming that no one, especially God, could forgive us for what we have done. But those memories and those feelings of being beyond hope are not the truth.

Forgiveness is something God does—and has already done. It is based on an historical event: Jesus Christ dying on the cross in our place, and then coming back to new life with God. He has already paid the price for all of our wrongs and failures. All we can do is simply accept that forgiveness as a fact. It is not dependent on us or our feelings.  It doesn’t depend on how well we move on from past mistakes. Forgiveness is what God does when He marks us as “clean” or “perfect” because Jesus took our punishment for us.

Forgiveness is based in fact, not feelings. So make sure you take time to read the Bible regularly. This is where God reminds us of the truth, so we can rely on Him, rather than how we feel (which is something we can quickly do if we’re not careful). Here are a couple of verses worth remembering:

God takes away our wrongs: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our [wrongdoings] from us” (Ps. 103:12 NIV).

God puts our failures out of His mind: “I will . . . remember their [wrongs] no more” (Jer. 31:34 NIV).

God cancels the debt of our sin: “I, even I, am He who [covers] your [wrongdoing]” (Isa. 43:25 NIV).

If I have been forgiven by God, why am I still suffering from past mistakes?

Being forgiven by God does not mean we will never face consequences for our actions. We might never fully make up with people we’ve hurt. Financial debts will still need to be repaid. Old injuries may still slow us down. But no matter what difficulties we have to go through or live with, we can do so with hope. This isn’t just wishful thinking. This is the certain knowledge that after we die, God will welcome us into heaven as His children.

He also promises to turn our mistakes around and actually use them for good, as we put our trust in Him. Paul, a writer in the Bible, declares “all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28. Emphasis added).

God promises to never leave us or abandon us (Hebrews 13:5). We belong to Him and go through all things with Him. We don’t have to face any pain or trials alone. And we know that there is no judgement for the things we have done wrong. Christ took the full punishment for us. So now we can talk to God in confidence and trust Him to help us with the difficulties we face today.

Does God really forgive people who have done terrible things? Surely it is too late for me to say sorry.

The Bible tells us about lots of people who did really bad things and yet were forgiven by God. These stories are there so we can know for sure that God keeps His promise to forgive all sin! It is never too late. Here are just a few examples:

 A criminal being executed. When Jesus was crucified, the criminal being executed next to Him cried out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Even this criminal, who was literally about to die, was promised forgiveness by Jesus: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:40-43).

Peter. Peter was a close friend of Jesus. Yet, fearing for his life, he denied even knowing Jesus when He was arrested. Jesus forgave Peter and used him to start the church (Mk. 14:66-72; Jn. 21:15-19).

A woman caught having an affair. According to the law of the time, she deserved death. But Jesus Christ forgave her sins and telling her to live a new life of following Him (Jn. 8:1-11).

Paul. He actively dragged Christians from their homes and killed them. In Acts 8, He stood by and watched, nodding his approval, as a Christian was stoned to death. But then he met Jesus and spent the rest of his life telling others about the forgiveness of God (Acts 8, 9; 1 Timothy 1:15).

What about people who have hurt me?

We are told to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). This is saying that, as forgiven people, we are to treat others based on the forgiveness we have received from God. We no longer need to bear grudges or stay bitter about things people have done against us.

Forgiving others isn’t easy or quick. It is a decision that we have to repeat frequently (normally every time we are reminded how the other person hurt us). Remembering that God has forgiven all our wrongs will help us know how to show mercy to others. What if they don’t deserve it? Well, did we deserve God’s forgiveness? No. And it came at the cost of His Son. The more we reflect on the forgiveness we have received, the more possible it is to show forgiveness, even to those who don’t deserve it.

Depending on the different circumstances we may be facing, our forgiveness may look quite different. Not every relationship can be fully restored to what it was, even if we do forgive those who have hurt us. Relationships can still come to an end, even if those involved have genuinely forgiven each other for any hurts that have been caused.

Are you struggling to forgive someone? This isn’t a journey to take alone. Make sure you tell your Scripture Reader, Chaplain or a close Christian friend . They can pray with you and encourage you as you work through this difficult issue.

Is there anything God won’t forgive?

Jesus said, “I tell you, every kind of sin and [insult] can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man (Jesus) will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven” (Matthew 12:31-32).

There are two main things to understand here:

  1. Every kind of sin and [insult] can be forgiven. Firstly, Jesus tells us plainly that all mistakes, failures and wrongs (sin) can be forgiven. This is good news! There is nothing we can do (except “blasphemy against the Spirit”) that God can’t forgive.
  1. Blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. So what is this? We need to know that when Jesus said this, He was speaking specifically to religious leaders who were publicly rejecting Him. They were saying that the miracles Jesus performed were works of the devil, and not works of the Holy Spirit, even though they knew better. So the only thing that is unforgivable is rejecting Jesus, the One who can forgive us.

God says that Christians are “sealed” by His Spirit, meaning they belong to God (Ephesians 1:13). But “blasphemy against the Spirit” is basically saying “no” to God’s offer of salvation. To blaspheme is to discredit who God is, meaning we are not interested in belonging to Him or receiving His forgiveness. Only this decision is unforgiveable. For those of us who have given our lives to God, nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). Our salvation is secure in Christ’s complete work on our behalf!