Let it Go!: The freedom of forgiveness

 

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What is your favorite attribute of God?  For sinners like you and me, perhaps forgiveness is the most valued of God’s attributes. Forgiveness will unify a congregation, a family, and your view of yourself. A lack of forgiveness will destroy a congregation, a family, and your view of yourself.

The only way we can know what our forgiveness should look like is to know what it looks like when God forgives. The way the Old Testament describes forgiveness is interesting. “In the OT, the most direct words for forgiveness are סָלַח (sālaḥ, “forgive”) and סְלִיחָה (sĕlîḥâ, “forgiveness”). Forgiveness can also be expressed by stating that one will not “remember” (זָכַר, zākar) the offense or “count” (חָשַׁב, ḥāšab) the offense against someone. Where such mental acts are negated for a debt or offense, the result is a kind of forgetfulness concerning the debt or offense. Forgiveness may be motivated by or result in the demonstration of compassion (רַחֲמִים, raḥămîm). More metaphorically, forgiveness may be compared with physical removal (נָשָׂא, nāśāʾ, “lift up”; עָבַר, ʿābar, “pass over”), covering (כָּסָה, kāsâ, “cover”; כָּפַר, kāpar, “atone”), and cleaning or repairing (רָפָא, rāpāʾ, “cure”; מָחָה, māḥâ, “wipe”;טָהֵר, ṭāhēr, “be clean”).”[1] We could summarize by saying that: “Forgiveness is the wiping out of an offense from memory; it can be effected only by the one affronted. Once eradicated, the offense no longer conditions the relationship between the offender and the one affronted, and harmony is restored between the two.”[2] Forgiveness occurs when we no longer “feel resentment for wrongs and offenses; pardon, involving restoration of broken relationships. Primarily, forgiveness is an act of God, releasing sinners from judgment and freeing them from the divine penalty of their sin. Since only God is holy, only God can forgive sin (Mk 2:7; Lk 5:21). Forgiveness is also a human act toward one’s neighbor, given new incentive and emphasis in the NT because of God’s forgiveness in the death of Christ.”[3]

Forgiveness offers peace and stability in your own mind, in your relationships, and in your congregation. There is no need to carry grudges and hurts all of our lives. These painful companions will only make us more miserable. Forgive.  Move on with your life. Grow. Develop relationships. Look forward to being home with Jesus and forget the pains of the past.

 

[1] J. David Stark, “Forgiveness,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).

[2] David Noel Freedman, ed., “Forgiveness,” The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 831.

[3] James M. Houston, “Forgiveness,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 810.

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