Joseph had faith to forgive his brothers' betrayal

4 Sins that Require Faith to Forgive

How do we take hold of faith to forgive when forgiving is tough? Part 4 of “Forgive Intentional Sin—Don’t Just Manage Emotions.”

Some sins are relatively easy to forgive: unintentional sins and minor wrongs, for instance. Other sins are much harder. Here are four that require faith to forgive.

It takes Faith to Forgive Sins that Cause Great Loss

When we lose possessions, relationships, health, or dreams because of someone’s sin, we’ll need faith to forgive: faith that we cannot lose anything of eternal value. Our heavenly treasures can be neither stolen nor destroyed (Matthew 6:19-21).

Martyrs had faith to forgive

Many early Christians lost everything (Konstantin Flavitsky, 1862, public domain)

I once lost a position after someone lied about me; I also lost relationships. I had to in faith believe that our losses and hurts here will not harm us in ways God cannot redeem. After all, God does work all things together for our good (Romans 8:28). Indeed, when we suffer loss and hardship with faith, we gain an eternal reward (1 Peter 1:6-72 Corinthians 4:17).

Our earthly losses are losses of temporal things only. We must let them go, for holding onto grudges over things lost makes those things idols raised above obeying God. Because of their faith, the first Christians “joyfully accepted” the plundering of their property because they knew that they “had a better possession and an abiding one” in the life to come (Hebrews 10:34).

It takes Faith to Forgive Malicious Slander

False and malicious slander is a fiery dart in the hand of the jealous, the power hungry, the fame seeker, the revenge taker, and the self-justifier. When aimed at us, we need faith to forgive: faith that believes only God’s opinion matters. Like Paul, we must consider others’ judgments “a very small thing” (1 Corinthians 4:1-5).

Jesus had faith to forgive false accusers

False witnesses accuse Jesus before the ruling council (José Madrazo, 1803, public domain)

A leader who believed the lies I mentioned above expressed harsh words about me. I memorized and quoted 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 regularly. I imagined myself holding up a giant shield of faith between me and the fiery darts of his judgments. The shield extinguished the darts, blocked them from piercing me, and moved my eyes from them onto our Redeemer.

Jesus warned that we would be unfairly maligned: “If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household! So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known” (Matthew 10:25-26). We don’t need to harbor unforgiveness because God can and will reveal the truth. His timing is perfect, even if the truth isn’t revealed till the Judgment.

It takes Faith to Forgive Wrongs Committed Over and Over and OVER

When family members or friends apologize, but keep doing the same things, they appear insincere. After all, repentance means trying to change. It takes faith to forgive repeatedly. In fact, when Jesus told the apostles they must forgive others over and over, they responded, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:3-5).

Jesus had faith to forgive Peter denying him 3 times

Peter denied Jesus 3 times (Carl Heinrich Bloch, 1873, public domain)

I doubt there’s anyone who hasn’t faced repeated wrongs. When my husband and I were dating, we agreed to never bring up a past wrong once we’ve said, “I forgive you.” To respond to an apology with, “But this is the fifth time,” is not loving, for love “keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5). Besides, bringing up past offenses separates even close friends, while putting forgiven faults behind us seeks love (Proverbs 17:9).

To forgive, I have to let go of that part of me which protests, “If she really cared, she wouldn’t keep doing this,” because how much someone loves me isn’t the point. That’s between her and God. My relationships aren’t about other people being what I want them to be: They’re about me being what God wants me to be.

Moreover, haven’t we all come to God confessing the same thing over and over again? We must grant the mercy we wish to receive. Only God knows the heart—which is why my part is to forgive and leave ultimate justice to God.

It takes Faith to Forgive Betrayal

Who hasn’t been betrayed by someone trusted? When we’re betrayed, it takes faith to forgive: faith that believes God rewards repaying hatred with love. Jesus calls us to love our enemies, do good to them, bless them, and pray for them, for God will greatly reward us (Luke 6:27-35).

Joseph had faith to forgive his brothers' betrayal

Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery (Konstantin Flavitsky, 1855, public domain)

When betrayed, we must remember no one can circumvent God’s good plans for us (Romans 8:28-31). After I learned that my mother knew her sins against me and my siblings were wrong, I prayed for insight into why the anger held on even though I’d tried to forgive her.

My Right?

It struck me that part of the reason is that I had considered parental love and goodness a right. God commands them, to be sure. But God had adopted me and I had a new, perfect Parent who was giving me all I needed: “Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close” (Psalm 27:10).

Beyond God’s Redemption?

I pondered further. Had I lost anything that God couldn’t work for good? No, Joseph’s story showed that (Genesis 50:20), and I’d already seen some good come from it in that others with similar backgrounds were more open to talk to me about Christ. Had I lost anything of eternal worth? No, heavenly treasures can’t be destroyed or stolen (Matthew 6:19-20). Everything that’s of this earth alone will pass away, so if I haven’t lost anything of eternal worth, then in the long run I haven’t actually lost anything.

A Prayer of Faith

In faith I chose to believe that God could use my mother’s betrayal for good, not just for me, but also for others (2 Corinthians 1:4). I prayed, “God, I trust you to work my mother’s wrongs for good for me, my siblings, and others. Keep the three of us from repeating her sins. Thank you for opening my eyes to know you. Thank you for the ways I’ve already seen you work good from my past.”

The anger finally began to subside.

Yet for this betrayal, I needed one more step. That’s the topic of my next post.

4 sins that take faith to forgive Click To Tweet How do we take hold of faith to forgive when forgiving is tough? Click To Tweet It takes faith to forgive betrayal Click To Tweet
Forgive Intentional Sin—Don’t Just Manage Emotions | In this series: 
  1. What Forgiving Isn’t: 5 Stand-ins that Masquerade as Forgiving
  2. Must I Forgive THIS Sin?
  3. What Makes Confessing and Forgiving Inseparable
  4. Four Sins that Require Faith to Forgive
  5. The Ultimate Reason Behind Unforgiveness
Posted in Encouragement, Message Series, Spiritual Practices and tagged , , .


  1. Thanks Jean E. Once again your comments are a blessing, clear, and full of Gods truth. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Confessing and Forgiving | Jean E. Jones

  3. Pingback: Must I Forgive THIS Sin? | Jean E. Jones

  4. Pingback: What Forgiving Isn't | Jean E. Jones

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