A Definition of Forgiveness
The Hebrew word for forgiveness means pardon, to cover or atone for, to lift up. Repentance in the Hebrew sense always connoted not just acceptance and feelings of remorse but also changing behavior, seeking pardon, and making amends.
The Greek word for repentance is metanoia, which means to make plans, change intention, change of heart and mind. Putting the Hebrew and Greek definitions together gives us the ontology to change direction from accomplishing evil deeds and move towards accomplishing good deeds that are aligned with God’s will.
Why Sorry is Not Enough
In Israel’s history, repentance meant turning away from idols and turning towards to the Lord. For example, David’s adultery with Bathsheba, under the Mosaic Covenant, required death, but because David repented, his life was spared by the Lord. Yet, David did bear the some of consequences of his sin and his sin was recorded in the Bible so as to be never forgotten.
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” — 2 Corinthians 7:10
Forgiveness requires godly sorrow, followed by repentance (turning to righteousness in Christ), and making amends to the person that suffered the consequences of your sin.
Forgiveness in Counseling
Forgiving truly involves talking about the sinful action and turning toward doing good things to make the one wronged against restored, loved, and cherished. It means turning away from the desire for further sinful action.
In thinking about the person that was wronged: This person now has to trust that the person who has done the wrongdoing has truly repented as demonstrated by a living faith of action in reconciliation and devotion to righteousness toward the hurt person.
The person who committed the sinful act needs to take ownership of the act, confess it, and make amends to make it right. The person who was hurt by the sinful action has a biblical mandate to let it go and to pardon the offense when the wrongdoer has followed the practical steps of repentance.