About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

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The following are two chapters taken from my book entitled 
"From My Side Of The Fence".  Hopefully what you read
will help explain what Biblical forgiveness, repentance, 
and love, is all about. 

Click here to to read the whole book on divorce and remarriage.   

10  - Forgiveness In The Midst Of Divorce


"Did you forgive her?  If you don't, bitterness will eat you alive", my friend said.   


"You equate forgiveness with relinquishing bitterness and resentment?  I heard a psychologist being interviewed on CNN saying the same thing", I replied. 


"I stopped watching CNN, so I missed that".


"You may disagree, so try to think this through.  Ridding yourself of resentment is important but it's not Biblical forgiveness.  The Greek word 'aphiemi' is commonly translated as forgive in our English New Testament.  To understand Biblical forgiveness you need to know what this word means and how Jesus, Paul, and others used it.  We can't impose a 21st century English concept onto a first century Greek word.  That's bad hermeneutics and does harm to both the Bible and our understanding". 


"Isn't hermeneutics the art of Biblical interpretation"? 


"Yes", I answered.  "Aphiemi means to get rid of or to cancel.  It wasn't a religious word.  It was an everyday street level word".   


"So the psychologist on CNN is right.  You get rid of your resentment". 


"No, he's not right.  Forgiveness isn't getting rid of resentment.  It's getting rid of, or cancelling, the offense that causes resentment.  It's the offense that's canceled, not the resentment.  Think of aphieni as an accounting term, as in, I aphiemi or cancel your bank loan".   


"Hay, that's my kind of aphiemi". 


"The Bible portrays God as having an accounting system where He records our good deeds and our sins".


"I can agree with that", my friend said.


"God views our sin as a debt owed to Him.  Jesus stepped into our indebted situation and paid the price to have our debt forgiven or deleted from God's spread sheet.  In order to complete this transaction we need to admit that we've been over our heads with this debt of sin and then walk away from a life of indebtedness.  In Bible terms this is called repentance.  So, forgiveness is the process by which God deletes, cancels, or forgives, our debt of sin upon our genuine repentance".


"Okay, I get it so far".


"Here's the gospel.  I sin.  I admit my sin.  I repent of my sin.  I trust my life to Jesus.  God wipes my record clean, and I'm reconciled to Him.  Do you agree"?


"I agree, but you're asking me leading questions that you know I'll agree to, then when you ask me the last clincher question I have no choice but to agree, even if I don't.  I understand repentance is important".   


"Repentance is crucial.  There's no forgiveness without repentance.  Check these verses out.  'Unless you repent, you too will perish', Luke 13:5.  'If he says I repent, forgive him', Luke 17:4.  'Repent for the forgiveness of sin', Acts 2:38.  'Repent that your sins may be wiped out', Acts 3:19.  It's clear, repenting precedes being forgiven".    


"Okay, what's the next leading question"?   


"There is none.  It's the clinching question.  If God doesn't forgive an offender's sin without him repenting, does He expect us to forgive the offender's sin without him repenting"?   


"I plead the fifth amendment on that one". 

"You can't.  You're a Canadian, not an American".


"Then I'll move to the States to escape the onslaught of your questions". 


"How about you just plead ignorance". 


"How about you just keep explaining".


"Okay, New Testament Greek culture viewed repenting as changing one's mind about his sin.  Old Testament Hebrew culture viewed repenting as turning away from one's sin.  Do you see the difference"?


"Yes, Greeks culture just changed its thinking about sin while Hebrews culture walked away from its sin".    


"Right on bro.  Western culture tends to follow Greek thought on this issue.  Although the New Testament was  written in Greek, it was based on Old Testament Hebrew.  So, Biblical repentance is more than acknowledging and changing our minds about sin.  More importantly, it's actually walking away from sin".


"I never thought about it that way".


"So, forgiveness isn't the relinquishing of bitterness as important as that is.  It's the cancelation of an offense once the offender exhibits genuine repentance".




"Now think about this.  In Matthew 9:6 the Pharisees blasted Jesus for thinking He was authorized to forgive sin.  The Pharisees were right when in Luke 5:21 they said that only God could forgive sin.  They were wrong in thinking God had not authorized Jesus to forgive sin.  God did authorize Jesus to forgive sin, and in like manor, as Jesus' representatives, He authorizes us to forgive sin on His behalf.  John 20:22 and 23 says, 'If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven, if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven".  Biblical forgiveness is all about us acting on the behalf of Jesus.  We cancel the sin on earth.  God cancels it in heaven. 


My friend looked totally confused.  "So did you forgive her"?  


"I can't forgive or cancel an offense if there's no acknowledgement and repentance of the offense.  I can however, demonstrate Biblical love to her".    


"So you love but don't forgive?  You've got more explaining to do brother.  Your aphiemi accounting practices don't add up on my theological calculator". 



11 - Love At The End Of Marriage


"Maybe my aphiemi accounting practices don't add up because we've left love out of the equation.  Remember, Biblical love can't be divorced from Biblical truth, and Biblical truth demands that forgiveness is only granted upon the offender repenting.  In Biblical terms, love and forgiveness are two separate issues.  Forgiveness is conditional upon repentance.  Love is unconditional.  So Jesus tells me to extend love to her whether she repents or not.  Love can encourage repentance, and if she repents, the offense is cancelled from God's records and reconciliation becomes possible.  The goal of repentance isn't forgiveness.  It's reconciliation.  God doesn't ask us to repent just so our sins can be forgiven.  We repent so that we can be forgiveness.  We're forgiven so we can be reconciled to a holy God.  Do you get that"?


My friend hesitated.  "I guess so".


"You sound a bit unsure.  Anyway, extending love is one way to get rid of hostility and resentment ".


"You're talking about love in the midst of divorce.  That sounds very weird", he said as he scratched his head.


"This might help explain.  It took place on the sidewalk in front of my house.  On his way to school my 8 year old son asked if my friend and I could help his mom put a TV stand together after we moved her stuff into her new apartment.  I told him we'd help her".       


My friend was surprised.  "You helped her move out"? 


"I did.  I guess if I was a real man I would have answered my son by saying, 'Hell no, she can put the damn thing together herself'.  What signal would that have sent him?   How could he have seen the love of God in me?  For his sake, and the sake of his salvation, I had to demonstrate love without violating truth".


Hesitating again he said, "I guess".


"I believe when couples divorce, it makes it hard for a child to find Jesus.  They've been taught to love, but experience separation.  That troubles me".


"So if some kind of love can be demonstrated during and after divorce, that softens the blow for children".


"We're not talking about philos style reciprocal love, and we're certainly not talking about eros erotic love.   We're talking about agape love, thinking of your children and others instead of yourself.  As crazy as it sounds, expressing agape in the midst of divorce will rid you of resentment, keep you sane, do wonders for your children, and maybe keep things on an even keel.  To be honest, it's not easy and it's often rejected.  Jesus demonstrated the most definitive expression of love in history while on the cross, but He was still rejected and despised.  Love doesn't fix every problem".         


"I hear what you're saying, but I'm not sure I agree ". 


"That's okay, but all I hear about divorce and remarriage these days makes me squirm in the pew, although I seldom sit in one".  



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