August 26, 2013

As We Forgive - We Have Left

Forgiveness is a topic at the heart of Christian living, but it doesn't seem to me that we talk about it very much in terms of our own healing and growth. We repent and get baptized for the forgiveness of our sins by God, and we're taught the Lord's Prayer where we learn that we must continue forgiving people to have our sins forgiven, but there's some deeper thinking to do about forgiveness in the Bible when we look at the Greek text.

But before that, I think that a lot of us have some misconceptions about who forgiveness actually is supposed to benefit. It's difficult, if not impossible, to say in psychological terms that God's forgiveness of us benefits Him in some way, but our forgiveness of others is primarily for our own benefit. When we forgive, we quit carrying around anger, resentment, and spite, freeing ourselves to focus on more beneficial things and actions. The topic of forgiveness is usually accompanied by the topic of reconciliation, but those are two separate and very different things.

The Greek word in the Lord's Prayer where we forgive others, ἀφήκαμεν (aphēkamen), occurs only three times in the Bible, in the Prayer in Mt. 6:12, and then again in the parallel passages of Mt. 19:27 and Mk. 10:28. But in those other two passages, aphēkamen is translated not as 'we forgive' but as 'we have left'. (27 Then Peter said to Him, "Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?")

The Disciples left behind the things that would have held them back from following Jesus. When we leave the topic of reconciliation aside, forgiveness is exactly that; leaving behind the burdens of anger and frustration that hinder us in our walk with Christ. That is why forgiveness is for our benefit, and not the other person.

Many times, we also have to forgive ourselves for things we have done, or that we blame ourselves for allowing to happen to us. These burdens can be much harder to lay down and walk away from, and are often more crippling than the others. But we still must leave these things to follow Jesus.

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