About Jesus Steve Sweetman
reading chapter 16 of the book entitled "The Shack", I feel
compelled to restate my position concerning Biblical forgiveness.
Many Christians and non-Christians alike forgive this person or
that person. People forgive
themselves. They forgive
others who haven't even offended them.
They even forgive Hitler, as if he wanted to be forgiven.
When asked to define forgiveness people usually say it's the
"letting go" of bitterness they hold against the offender.
The author of "The Shack" agrees with this when in his
book God tells Mack to forgive his daughter's murderer by "letting
go" of the bitterness he holds against him.
The "letting go" of bitterness is meant to bring needed
peace to Mack's life. Relinquishing
bitterness is important for our health, but is it forgiveness as defined
in Biblical terms?
understand Biblical forgiveness we must understand how Biblical writers
defined their word that is translated as "forgive" in our
English Bibles. We often
redefine their words with our modern definitions, and that's not right.
The New Testament was written in first century Greek, so there
are language and cultural concerns to be considered when interpreting
Biblical words. The Greek
word "aphiemi" is translated as "forgive" in our
English New Testament. "Aphiemi"
means to "send away". Therefore,
other terms you might use to help define "aphiemi" could be,
to cancel, to release, to delete, to erase, or, "to let go".
was not a religious word. It
was a common word used in daily conversation in first century Roman
Palestine. It was often used
with reference to cancelling a financial debt, as can be seen in Matthew
18:27 and 32. If you
think of "aphiemi" as a bookkeeping term, that is, the
cancelation of a financial debt, you'll begin to understand Biblical
forgiveness. So, if the bank
forgives your car loan, your loan is canceled, deleted from their
computers, and "sent away" to the computer's trash can, never
to be seen again.
is the important question that I've never heard asked when discussing
forgiveness. When the Bible
speaks of forgiveness in terms of "sending
away", or "letting go", because that's what "aphiemi"
means, what is to be "let go"?
Is it our resentment and bitterness as most people think?
answer this question we need to understand that because God is just, He
keeps account of our sins for future judgment.
This sounds archaic in our post-modern world, but that's what the
Bible says. (Revelation 20:12) Understanding
this will help you understand what needs to be "let go" of in
the process of forgiveness.
Matthew 26:28 Jesus said, "this is my blood of the covenant, which
is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."
In Luke 3:3 John the Baptist preached "repentance for the
forgiveness of sins." Peter,
in Acts 5:31 stated that God "grants repentance for the forgiveness
of sins." In Ephesians
1:7 and Colossians 1:14 Paul said that Jesus gives us "forgiveness
of sins." The common
phrase in these verses and others is, "the forgiveness of
sins". This tells us
what needs to be "let go" of in the process of Biblical
forgiveness, and it's not bitterness.
above verses clearly state that it is sin, not bitterness, that is
"sent away" or "let go of" in the process of
Biblical forgiveness. As
these verses point out, forgiveness only takes place once the offender
repents of his sins. The
prerequisite to forgiveness, the cancelation and letting go of sin, is
we to view forgiveness differently than how we see God view forgiveness
in the above passages? I
don't think so, but most of us do. We've
adopted the world's view of forgiveness by viewing forgiveness as the
"letting go of bitterness" when it's really the "letting
go of sin".
don't believe Jesus expects us to do something He Himself doesn't do.
So when someone offends us, we need to do what Jesus does, and
that is cancel the debt of sin when, and only when, our offender repents
of the sin. Upon repentance
we delete the offense, not the bitterness, from our mental records as if
it never existed in the first place.
know what you're thinking, and you're right.
We need to "let go" of bitterness, but that's not
Biblical forgiveness. It's
actually an act of love. The Bible teaches us to love our offender,
whether he repents or not, and you can't love him when you resent him.
The world's view of forgiveness as being the "letting
go" of bitterness is selfish. Most
people "let go" of bitterness to find personal peace of mind.
There's a more Biblical and less selfish reason to "let go" of
bitterness, and that's to love the offender in order to help bring him
to repentance and forgiveness of sins.
Personal peace will naturally come when we "let go" of
bitterness, but it shouldn't be the only reason why we let bitterness
have one very important ministry as we walk this earth as
representatives of Jesus. He
has given us both the responsibility and the authority to pronounce
forgiveness of sins upon the repentance of the sinner. (John 20:23) On
the behalf of Jesus we are to cancel, or "let go" of the
offender's sin. If we don't
understand Biblical forgiveness in this light, we will certainly fail to
carry out our responsibilities of this ministry.
I do believe we have
failed in this respect. Our
adoption of a selfish world view does nothing to further the ministry
Jesus has given us.
reaction to Catholicism, Protestants have unfortunately set aside the
Biblical mandate for us to forgive sins upon the repentance of the
sinner. Such a mandate sounds
too Catholic for Protestants, so we've left that for Jesus, when He has
asked us to help Him with this. On
the other hand, Catholicism has defiled the mandate to forgive sins by
making it a ministry for priests only.
The New Testament states that we are all priests.
Christians have the same responsibility and authority in this
respect as Jesus has. Like
Jesus, we are to reconcile the world unto God by canceling sins directed
towards us and God upon the repentance of the offender. (2 Corinthians
is the process of Biblical forgiveness.
The offended one "let's go" of bitterness as an act of
love in order to help bring the offender to repentance.
As a matter of godly justice, the offense cannot be canceled
until it is accounted for and recognized as being an offense by the
offender and then repented of. At
that point only, the offense is forgiven, canceled, or "let go
of". The process
of Biblical forgiveness is a matter of love and justice working hand in
loves unconditionally. That's
why He paid the price for our sins to be canceled.
We should love unconditionally too.
Jesus forgives, or "lets go" of sins only when the
sinner repents. We should
forgive, or "let go" of sin only when our offender repents
too. That's simple Biblical