Theological scholars have made attempts to classify religions based on their beliefs, institutions, and practices. This is done to bring order to a vast field of knowledge associated with the human religious experience. Moreover, students of religion have always strived to attain the same goal by grouping religions together than having certain elements in common. The religions of the world are numerous, and they include Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism, Confucianism, Jainism, Shinto, Zoroastrianism, Gnosticism, Druze, and Rastafarianism among others. Research studies have revealed that the aforementioned groups share various core principles that form the foundation of religious belief. Examples of these precepts include the golden rule, speaking the truth, loving one’s neighbor, the law of giving and receiving, honoring one’s parents, forgiveness, respect for human dignity, and the existence of one God. The principle of forgiveness is a core teaching in Christianity and Islam that is presented as both a choice and a duty among God’s people.
Forgiveness in Christianity
Forgiveness is a central theme in the teachings of Christianity as shown both in the Old and New testaments. The Bible explores the principle in-depth and offers guidance for its practice. In a Christian’s spiritual life, forgiveness is one of the major pillars that bring them closer to God and that exemplifies their obedience to God’s statutes (Balkin, 2020). For example, in the Lord’s Prayer taught to the disciples, Jesus asked them to forgive those who wrong them so that their heavenly father would forgive them too. During the crucifixion of Jesus, his final words summarized his ministry on earth by teaching the significance of forgiveness (Tran, 2020). In His last hour, Jesus prayed to God to forgive those who had crucified Him, for they did not know what they were doing (Goshen-Gottstein, 2015). Jesus taught that forgiveness should be unconditional, and Christians should not count the number of times they forgive. The principle of forgiveness is best exemplified by God’s action of offering his only begotten son to die for the sins of the world. Christians believe that the death, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus was God’s way of washing away the sins of the world (Balkin, 2020). Any believer who repents is automatically forgiven and becomes free. The various denominations have different teachings about forgiveness. For example, the Roman Catholic and Orthodox believe that forgiveness has to be mediated by the Church. Therefore, Christians are required to confess their sins to a priest to obtain absolution. On the contrary, Protestants believe that forgiveness comes from forging others and repenting directly to God. These practices are different, but the underlying principle is the same.
Forgiveness in Islam
Islam is another religion that teaches the importance of forgiveness through the writings found in the Quran. Muslims hold the belief that human beings are not capable of perfection, and therefore, they deserve forgiveness because of their propensity to do wrong to others (Goshen-Gottstein, 2015). Two key teachings about forgiveness that can be found in the Quran are, first, forgiving others is a characteristic of Allah’s servants, and second, people who forgive can expect to receive forgiveness from Allah. Islam also teaches that God encourages the forgiveness of murderers by the victim’s kin to be spared from death. Any person who chooses to offer forgiveness in such a way is promised lofty rewards by Allah (Mosher & Marshall, 2016). Unlike Christianity, Islam does not teach forgiveness an obligatory value that every Muslim should practice. However, it is presented as a personal choice and a prerequisite for perfect peace. The Quran notes that the most appropriate penalty for a wrong is an equal and proportionate injustice. However, it adds that the most preferred retribution is forgiveness (Mosher & Marshall, 2016). Islam offers the kin of a murder victim the freedom to choose between offering forgiveness and stopping the death penalty or approving the execution according to law. Islam also teaches the concept of forgetting as it relates to forgiveness. According to the Quran, forgetting an injustice is a higher form of forgiveness than simply forgiving and keeping the memories of the wrongs done in one’s heart (Mosher & Marshall, 2016). According to Islam, Allah cannot forgive any person who equates themselves to Allah because it is an overt denial of monotheism. The worship of an idol is an offense that cannot be forgiven if done for a lifetime. The sin can only be forgiven if the person abandons the act and genuinely asks for forgiveness.
Forgiveness in other religions
As mentioned earlier, many religions offer teachings on forgiveness, including guidelines for its successful practice. The foregoing discussion cites forgiving others as one of the prerequisites for being forgiven. Human interactions are characterized by recurrent cases of misunderstanding and conflicts, which interrupt the harmonious existence between people (Mosher & Marshall, 2016). As a result, problems arise in relationships, families, marriages, and communities. Numerous religions teach this principle because it is one of the most effective methods of bringing people back tougher and resolving conflict. Through forgiveness, the hurt that people feel in their hearts for a wrong done to them is wiped, making it possible for them to continue their relationships without strife (Goshen-Gottstein, 2015). Many religions teach about forgiveness because of its positive effects on individuals who forgive and who are forgiven. On one hand, the person who forgives lets go of anger and resentment and adopts new attitudes that clear bitterness and help them to think positively of others (Tran, 2020). They stop carrying a burden that affects them more than it affects the other person. On the other hand, the person who is forgiven gets the opportunity to salvage a friendship or a relationship. Failing to forgive keeps people stuck in the past, and robs them of peace in their hearts (Tran, 2020). Healing and forgiveness go hand in hand, as research studies have shown that holding on to feelings of anger, bitterness, and forgiveness could have detrimental health effects.
Forgiveness is a core principle that is found in the teachings of many religions. In Christianity and Islam, forgiveness benefits the person who forgives and the one who is forgiven. For one, there is an opportunity to be forgiven by God, and for the other, there is peace in the heart. Its essence is similar, even though it is approached differently. Christians view it as a duty and responsibility while Muslims perceive it as a choice and not an obligation. The depiction of forgiveness in both religions has been supported by the writings of the Bible and the Quran. Each book contains several verses that point to God’s will regarding forgiveness and its importance. Letting go of anger and resentment that originate from an injustice allows individuals to regain peace in their hearts, earn forgiveness from God, and live according to religious values.
Balkin, R. S. (2020). Practicing forgiveness: A path toward healing. Oxford University Press.
Goshen-Gottstein, A. (Ed.). (2015). Memory and hope: forgiveness, healing, and interfaith relations. Wipf and Stock Publishers.
Mosher, L., & Marshall, D. (Eds.). (2016). Sin, forgiveness, and reconciliation: Christina and Muslim perspectives. Georgetown University Press.
Tran, J. C. (2020). Authentic forgiveness: A biblical approach. Langham Publishing.