It’s the Christmas season, and I would like to focus on just one word: forgiveness. The purpose of Jesus’ mission to earth was to redeem for Himself a people who would be free to serve Him. Through His sacrificial death and resurrection forgiveness would be given to all who would repent and believe His message. And then, those redeemed people, having been forgiven, would then demonstrate forgiveness to others.
I have been spending the past several weeks re-learning what the word forgiveness means. God has been “rubbing my nose” in it, if you will…because apparently He thinks I need to learn this lesson. I think the most helpful thing to know about this word is its meaning in the Greek language. In New Testament Greek the basic word for forgiveness is “aphiemi” and it essentially means two things: to let go, and to send away. Let go. Send away.
We would all love it if the one who terribly hurt us would come and ‘fess up, admit their bad behavior, and ask for our forgiveness. Once in a blue moon that happens, but normally it does not. So what should we do? We must practice “aphiemi”. Ephesians 4:32 commands Christians to forgive (aphiemi) even as God in Christ forgave us. So that means we must let go…and we must send away.
Letting go, releasing does not mean that we exonerate the offender. Nor does it mean that we must continue the relationship. But it does mean that we let go of the preoccupation with negative feelings. We stop dwelling on how they hurt us; we ask the Lord to banish resentment in our hearts. We must replace those dark feelings with gratitude for what the Lord HAS done in our lives. Start writing a list. I did one the other day. After about two full pages I was feeling a whole lot better. When we fill up our lives with thanksgiving, we are in effect giving bitterness, resentment, hatred, despair–no room to rent space in our lives. We are, in effect practicing the other aspect of aphiemi–we are sending away the offense.
Those who fill up their lives with gratitude to God and practice the kind of forgiveness He extended to us, will be free. And the Lord wants us to live in freedom.