What does it mean to forgive from the heart?

Yesterday in our #HardWords series we talked about the command of Jesus to forgive one another from the heart. I came across this explanation of forgiveness from Thomas Watson in a John Piper Sermon and thought it would be worthwhile to consider for anyone who would like to continue to think about the topic further.

If you missed the sermon and want to listen to it, here it is.

Question: When do we forgive others? (i.e When can I really say I have forgiven someone?)

Answer: When we strive against all thoughts of revenge; when we will not do our enemies mischief, but wish well to them, grieve at their calamities, pray for them, seek reconciliation with them, and show ourselves ready on all occasions to relieve them. (Thomas Watson, Body of Divinity, p. 581)

Each of its parts comes from a passage of Scripture.

Resist thoughts of revenge: Romans 12:19, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

Don’t seek to do them mischief: 1 Thessalonians 5:15, “See that no one repays another with evil for evil.

Wish well to them: Luke 6:28, “Bless those who curse you.”

Grieve at their calamities: Proverbs 24:17, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.”

Pray for them: Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”

Seek reconciliation with them: Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”

Be always willing to come to their relief: Exodus 23:4, “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him.”


Here is forgiveness: when you feel that someone is your enemy or when you simply feel that you or someone you care about has been wronged, forgiveness means,


resisting revenge,

not returning evil for evil,

wishing them well,

grieving at their calamities,

praying for their welfare,

seeking reconciliation so far as it depends on you,

and coming to their aid in distress.


Colby Garman (@ColbyGarman , [email protected])