The phrase “To err is human, forgive divine” is often cited in discussions of forgiveness and human nature. Many people believe it originates from the Bible, as it seems to reflect the teachings of Christianity.
However, it is important to examine this phrase and its origin more closely to determine whether it is truly a biblical concept or a piece of wisdom from another source. In this blog post, we will explore the phrase, its origins, and its relationship to the teachings found in the New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible.
Forgiveness is a central theme in Christianity, as it is the foundation of our relationship with God and with each other. Jesus Christ, our Savior, came to earth to provide forgiveness for our sins and to reconcile us to God.
As followers of Christ, we are called to extend that same forgiveness to others, just as we have been forgiven. With this understanding of the importance of forgiveness, let’s take a closer look at the phrase “To err is human, forgive divine” and its connection to the Bible.
Origin of the Phrase
The phrase “To err is human, forgive divine” does not come from the Bible, but rather from a poem by the English poet Alexander Pope, called “An Essay on Criticism” (1711). The full couplet reads:
To err is human; to forgive, divine.
Although the phrase itself is not found in the Bible, the sentiments it expresses are consistent with biblical teachings about human nature and forgiveness.
The Nature of Humanity and Sin
The first part of the phrase, “To err is human,” reflects the understanding that humans are inherently flawed and prone to making mistakes. This idea can be traced back to the biblical account of the Fall in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3).
Romans 3:23 (NKJV) states, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This verse highlights that everyone, without exception, is affected by sin and is in need of forgiveness. The idea that “to err is human” acknowledges our natural propensity to make mistakes and sin.
The second part of the phrase, “forgive divine,” points to the divine nature of forgiveness. In the Bible, we see that God is the ultimate source of forgiveness, and it is through His mercy and grace that we can receive forgiveness for our sins.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV) explains, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” This passage emphasizes that our salvation and forgiveness are gifts from God, not something we can earn through our own efforts.
This underscores the divine nature of forgiveness, which is freely given to those who put their faith in Jesus Christ.
The Call to Forgive Others
As Christians, we are called to emulate God’s forgiveness by extending it to others. Jesus taught his followers to pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12, NKJV). In other words, we are to forgive others just as God has forgiven us.
In the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35, NKJV), Jesus illustrates the importance of forgiveness and the consequences of withholding it. In this story, a servant who has been forgiven a massive debt by his master refuses to forgive a smaller debt owed to him by a fellow servant.
Upon learning of the servant’s lack of mercy, the master revokes his forgiveness and hands the servant over to be punished. Jesus concludes the parable with a sobering warning: “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (Matthew 18:35, NKJV).
The apostle Paul also emphasizes the importance of forgiving others in his letter to the Colossians: “bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:13, NKJV).
This passage clearly states that Christians are called to forgive others as a reflection of the forgiveness we have received in Christ.
Forgiveness as a Process
While the phrase “To err is human, forgive divine” is not directly found in the Bible, it captures the essence of biblical teachings on forgiveness. However, it is important to remember that forgiveness is not always an easy or immediate process.
We are not expected to instantly forget or ignore the pain caused by others’ mistakes or sins. Instead, forgiveness is a process that involves working through our emotions, releasing resentment, and seeking reconciliation when possible.
The Bible offers practical guidance for working through the process of forgiveness. In Matthew 18:15-17 (NKJV), Jesus provides instructions for addressing conflicts and offenses within the Christian community.
This passage encourages open communication, confrontation, and seeking the help of others when necessary to resolve disputes and foster forgiveness.
In conclusion, the phrase “To err is human, forgive divine” may not be a direct quote from the Bible, but it captures the essence of biblical teachings on human nature and forgiveness. We are all prone to making mistakes and sinning, which necessitates our need for God’s divine forgiveness.
As recipients of this divine gift, we are called to extend forgiveness to others, just as we have been forgiven.
The process of forgiveness can be difficult and may require time, effort, and the support of others. However, it is through forgiving others that we truly reflect God’s love and mercy. By embracing forgiveness, we can experience personal healing, strengthen our relationships, and grow in our walk with God.
Let us strive to live out the spirit of the phrase “To err is human, forgive divine” in our daily lives, remembering that we are all in need of grace and forgiveness.
As we extend forgiveness to others, we not only reflect the divine nature of God, but we also foster a sense of unity and love within our Christian community.