Bible Study Resources - Tips, Online Bible Search, Devotions

Is the Concept ‘to Err Is Human, to Forgive Divine’ Biblical?

  • Melinda Eye Cooper Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2020 13 Apr
Is the Concept ‘to Err Is Human, to Forgive Divine’ Biblical?

Nobody’s perfect. We all "err" and need forgiveness. 

I’ve made some big mistakes in life. We all I’ve wished I could turn back the hands of time and fix things more often than I’d like to admit. But unfortunately, we have to live with our mistakes. Sometimes, we can only hope and pray for forgiveness from others.

We aren’t getting through life without needing forgiveness from someone. And none of us are getting through life without experiencing the need to forgive someone else for pain they’ve caused us. Sometimes, we wait for an apology that never comes. What's more, we need to forgive even when the offender doesn’t make an effort to make things right. That can be tough especially if the pain is deep. But it is possible to forgive and it’s the beginning of healing. Most of all, we need forgiveness from God. So what does His word say about erring and forgiving?

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/ipopba

Does the Bible Actually Say ‘to Err Is Human’ or ‘to Forgive Is Divine?'

Does the Bible Actually Say ‘to Err Is Human’ or ‘to Forgive Is Divine?'

The Bible doesn’t say ‘to err is human, to forgive is divine’ in those exact words. But it does say it in other words. 

Everyone born into this world inherited a fallen human nature from our ancestors—Adam and Eve. We will sin and we will make mistakes. No matter how hard we try to avoid it, we can’t help it. We are human, after all, and prone ‘to err.’

Surely, I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Psalm 51:5

As Christians, we receive the wonderful, powerful Holy Spirit. He helps us forgive when we find it painfully difficult to do so. To forgive through the power of the Holy Spirit is therefore ‘divine.’

Peter replied, “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38

Origin of the Phrase ‘to Err Is Human, to Forgive Is Divine’

The phrase ‘To err is human; to forgive, divine’ is originally from a poem written in 1711 by English poet Alexander Pope titled An Essay on Criticism, Part II. The lengthy poem is a discussion and critique of the art of poetry (and poetry readers) of his day. 

The author explains that while we all make mistakes; we should aspire to do as God does and show mercy and forgiveness to others.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/bingokid

What Does Jesus Say about Human Error and Forgiveness?

What Does Jesus Say about Human Error and Forgiveness?

In the book of Matthew, Jesus speaks of how we sometimes err.

Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?” Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” Matthew 22:28-30

In this passage, Jesus is replying to a question about marriage. But the answer He gives is true in most everything for us. We might err because we don’t know the Scriptures the way we should and maybe we don’t really know His great power.

Also, in Matthew, Jesus speaks of forgiveness.

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15

And in Mark, Jesus advises: And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25

Holding onto unforgiveness can cause problems in our relationship with God. We’re commanded to forgive others because He’s forgiven us.

4 Scriptures that Highlight Our Error and Forgiveness 

We’re completely unaware of some of our own errors and blessed to be forgiven.

But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.Psalm 19:12

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven; whose sins are covered. –Psalm 32:1

I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me. – Jeremiah 33:8

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. – Romans 3:23

Photo Credit: ©Crosscards.com

Why Is it ‘Divine’ to Forgive?

Why Is it ‘Divine’ to Forgive?

As Christians, we’re asked to forgive the way God forgave us. He lavished grace, mercy, and love upon us and washed our sins away through the blood of His beloved Son.

How can we ever forgive in such a way?

It can be easy to say we forgive someone. The problem is we can’t forget. Our nature is not to forgive but to get even with the person who hurt us.

We might struggle day after day to put the pain and trauma behind us but it lingers in our minds and hearts. We can’t seem to forget even though we’ve verbally forgiven them. We may find ourselves begging God to help us forgive because we find we’re unable to do it in our own power.

God is the only one capable of forgiving and forgetting.

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Isaiah 43:25

As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12

But each day we struggle is a day we can grow closer to God by seeking His help. We can put the trouble of our inability to truly forgive into His powerful hands.

Then we’re able to forgive through the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s a beautiful thing when forgiveness comes from the heart.

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Lina Trochez

4 Things to Remember about the Phrase ‘to Err Is Human, to Forgive Is Divine’

4 Things to Remember about the Phrase ‘to Err Is Human, to Forgive Is Divine’

1. We all mess up and need forgiveness,

2. Forgiving can be hard and forgetting is not easy.

3. We can forgive someone through the divine power of the Holy Spirit.

4. When we forgive others as God forgave us, we’re reflecting traits of our Savior by extending grace and mercy.

They say time heals all wounds. I don’t know if that’s true, but it does help. Sadly, it can take years to get through some things in life. 

When we become Christian, God forgives once for all of our sins because of His deep love for us. We may find ourselves trying to forgive someone over and over again because we’re incapable of forgiving difficult things in life without the help of the Holy Spirit.

Know that we all make mistakes. We might cause someone deep pain or vice versa. We may be disappointed in the worst way and it can seem impossible to forgive in our own strength. But through the power of the Holy Spirit we can forgive because He forgave us. 

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven; whose sins are covered. Psalm 32:1

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Gus Moretta


Melinda Eye CooperMelinda Eye Cooper grew up in the Missouri Ozarks but lives near Nashville, Tennessee. She and her husband have three sons, two daughters-in-law, and three beautiful granddaughters – and a spunky dog named Lincoln!

Melinda writes articles and devotions. She also writes fiction and is currently working on a middle-grade fantasy novel. She grew up in a large family, and many of her devotions and stories are inspired from her childhood.

Visit her website here. You can follow her on Facebook here or Instagram here.



Follow Crosswalk.com