“for this is My blood of the covenant, which is to be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:28
Forgiveness – What does forgiveness look like? That’s not the same question as what it means. We are inclined to use a lot of theologically correct language when we talk about forgiveness. We mention casting away guilt, dealing with sins and bridging the gap between man and God. All that is correct and good to know. But what does forgiveness look like in action? The imagery of the Greek word can help us.
Aphesis (forgiveness, remission) comes from two other Greek words. One is the simple preposition “from” (apo). The other is hiemi, to send. Literally, to send from, to send away. This combination results in meanings like, “to dismiss, to let pass, to send forth, to let go of, to release, to forsake, to leave and to abandon”. What does forgiveness look like? It looks like the last rays of the sun disappearing over the horizon. It looks like the last wave of the passenger on the cruise ship. It looks like the airplane pulling out of sight. Forgiveness is a disappearing act.
Is this your vision of forgiveness? When you forgive, do you see the incident disappear from your horizon? Do you wave it good-bye? Do you release it from your history and your vocabulary? Forgiveness is the active choice to send something away from you. God’s forgiveness sends away the guilty verdict and the implied punishment. God’s active choice in the matter means that it is removed from His vocabulary about us and from His actions toward us. Gone. Disappeared. God doesn’t stand on the shore and look out at the sea, catching the wisp of smoke from the ship in order to remind Himself that He “forgave” us. There is no telltale sign on the horizon. God isn’t looking in that direction.
Dr. Laura gave advice about forgiveness to a caller. She said that forgiveness was not necessary unless the offender demonstrated remorse and changed behavior. Dr. Laura might have been well received among the Pharisees but she certainly would have had difficulty with Jesus. Jesus made forgiveness the most risky business in the world. From Jesus’ perspective, forgiveness never demanded remorse or changed behavior. Forgiveness is my decision to wave good-bye. It does not depend on your response. Forgiveness with expectation is subtle obligation. And God is not subtle when it comes to dealing with sin.
Let it go. Send it away. Release it. Take the risk. Wave good-bye. He did.