Ah, the hardest part of our charge as Christians toward the world. It’s even harder than loving the world, even though these two go hand in hand. This thing, this forgiveness, is something that is often misunderstood and almost as misunderstood in Christianity as the word “love”. These two terms have taken a whole other meaning in our modern lexicon.
The Greek word for forgiveness is ἄφεσις (Afesis), and interestingly enough it actually doesn’t mean forgiveness. Much of our lexicon today focuses on emotion instead of action; however, biblically speaking, we are to use the intelligence of our created being to produce the proper action required from a divine Creator. This word is no different and I may do a whole series on forgiveness, because it is the second most powerful action someone can do next to love. It is also, like “love”, completely antithetical to our innate animalistic nature. We, as fallen, creatures are completely removed from perfection and love, therefore we only know selfishness and malice. So, when we have been wronged our initial response is one of revenge.
But back to the word afesis, I initially said it doesn’t mean forgiveness, and in our modern sense it doesn’t. It requires a bit of a background on what exactly sin is considered biblically. Sin isn’t just a thing you do that is wrong, it is a (as used in the Lord’s prayer) trespass or encroaching on someone else’s space. It also adds up, that’s why we read that sin is a debt as well (Rom. 2:5-6, Lk 7:36-43, Rom 6:16-23). We read that we are slaves to sin.
In the Bible the word slave doesn’t mean “one who is bought and sold for a price for manual labor”, but more generally it is referred to as an indentured servant or “one who owes a debt and must then work to repay it”. We can’t work off sin, and the only way we can get rid of sin is to have it forgiven.
So, finally coming full circle here. Forgiveness in greek,afesis, means to release someone from a debt. It doesn’t mean there are no consequences as God will happily chasten His own people here on earth. It doesn’t mean there will be leniency: as how are parents supposed to raise a child without consequences?What it does mean, is the debt or sin is no longer counted against the person and they are free from being indebted to the one they wronged.
Almost everytime forgiveness is written in the Bible, we read that same greek word. It isn’t an emotion we are reading or something that has feeling it is a verb, a diliberate act of releasing someone from their debt to Hell. Satan is the Ursurer and bill collector while Christ is the payment.
The same needs to be applied to all others who wrong us. There still will be consequences to their actions, but if you choose to still associate with them (it’s not necessary to continue that), you must force yourself to forget their actions. At the end of the day, God is the Avenger (Rom 12:19).