As I scrolled through Facebook this past week a friend of mine posted a status about forgiveness asking his readers what their definition of forgiveness was. One particular sentence stuck me the most… “do you really forgive and let it go and NEVER hold it against the offender?” So if you haven’t figured out by now, todays post is about forgiveness!
When I think about forgiveness I raise many questions. What does forgiveness even mean? What do I benefit in forgiving? What does one benefit in being forgiven? Why should we ask for forgiveness if we are already forgiven?… etc. One thing I always do (and highly encourage) before writing or speaking about a topic is to see what the Bible says. Before we go any further in discussion let’s first look at what the Bible says about each of these questions, and the topic of forgiveness.
The greek word for forgiveness seen in the New Testament is aphiēmi (G575). This word means to send away, send forth, yield up or expire. My first interpretation is that as soon as one sins we are to dismiss (send away, expire) the sin and go about our business. Does this mean the wrong doing should be left unpunished or uncorrected? By no means! I believe we should always be correcting each other IN LOVE. Personally I think forgiveness is correcting and forgetting. Forgetting means to “let it go and NEVER hold it against the offender!” But the two most important parts in the definition are “send forth” and “yield up”. All forgiveness, whether asking for forgiveness or forgiving someone, must be “yielded up” and “sent forth” to God. Only God can truly do the work of forgiveness in our lives. Not only can he forgive, but more importantly he already has through his son Jesus Christ! Amen!
What Jesus teaches in his ministry answers the question of what benefit we get through receiving and giving forgiveness. Throughout his three years of ministry Jesus spoke much about forgiveness. My personal favorite scripture references are Matthew 6:14-15, Matthew 18: 21-22, and Luke 17:3-4. Matthew 6:14-15 clearly tells us our benefit in forgiving others. “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” It’s as simple as that, forgive and be forgiven! How can we expect to receive forgiveness if we cannot even forgive? The benefit in forgiving is receiving forgiveness.
Secondly, we can interpret the benefit that others receive when we give forgiveness from scripture in Luke 17:3-4. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” If a brother sins against you 1 billion times and returns 1 billion times asking for repentance, guess what?! You forgive that lovely person 1. Billion. Times. When we forgive unconditionally, others receive and experience the unconditional love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen!
The last questioned raised is, why should we ask for forgiveness if we are already forgiven through Jesus Christ? Also, why should we forgive other believers if they are already forgiven through Jesus Christ? To answer this we must put the act or meaning of forgiveness into two separate categories. Positional and Relational.
Positional (also referred to as judicial) forgiveness means that the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross is exactly that, finished! We are forever saved from the eternal punishment of sin! I can sin against my father and he will still love me and I will still be his son. So it is with us and God. Relational forgiveness answers the heart of our questions. If I sin against my father he will still love me and I will still be his son, but our relationship will suffer, that is until I ask for forgiveness of my sin. Once I confess my wrong doing we can move forward in our relationship.
And so it is with God! Nothing will separate us from the love of Christ! (Roman 8:38-39) But if we do not repent, our relationship with God will suffer and come to a stop. How can we continue in building The Kingdom of God with the weight and guilty of sin on our shoulders? We can’t! Forgiveness allows us to move on. Forgiveness jumps the hurdles that sin puts on path, of pursuing God.
In conclusion, forgiveness forgets our wrong doings, spreads the unconditional love of Christ, and allows us to build relationally with one another, and more importantly with God. My prayer is that you, reader, know that you are forgiven through the finished work of Jesus Christ!