1. Forgiveness is Done

Forgiveness is Done

Part 1 of the Spotlight series "Forgiveness is Passing" 
Think back to a time when you were forgiven more easily or more quickly than you expected. How did that make you feel, and how has it impacted you since?

Once you've broken the ice, read this Spotlight's focus:
What did you do to be born? Basically… nothing. Your life was given to you. Our lives - both our bodies and our spirits - have been given to us by God, on two separate occasions. Not only did God give us new life when we were conceived, but he also gives us new life in a spiritual way when we come to believe in him.
The word "forgive" actually means "to give up, to take away." At the start of this series, let's talk about God sending our sin away, making space in us for better things.

(And welcome, by the way! It’s great that you’re here!)
Let’s talk about "Qiu Jin." Her story can give us a sense of the breadth of our need for the work forgiveness does. 

Like most other nineteenth-century women in her village of Shanyin, Jin bound her feet and became the wife of an older man in an arranged marriage. As she had come from a wealthy family, she was well-educated and trained in martial arts. Eventually she escaped the husband she had grown to hate (leaving during one of his visits to the brothels), sold her jewelry to buy a one-way boat ticket to Japan, and started a new life. She unbound her feet, became a poet who advocated for women’s rights, started a feminist magazine, and joined the Chinese revolutionary army.

Listen to how she wrote about her escape to Japan in her poem Reflections:
“The sun and moon without light;
sky and earth in darkness.
Who can lift up the sinking world of women?
I pawned my jewels to sail across the open seas,
divided from my children as I left the border at Jade Pass.
Unbinding my feet to cleanse out a millennium’s poisons,
I arouse the spirits of women, hundreds of flowers abloom.
Oh, this poor handkerchief made of merfolk-woven silk,
half stained with blood and half soaked in tears!”
(translated by Yilin Wang)

Compare her poetry to the poetry in Revelation 7:13-17:

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, “they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
will shelter them with his presence.
‘Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water.’
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”

Forgiveness is about more than the removal of the times you've broken a rule or messed up. It's about the removal of all of sin and its results completely.
Hopefully that makes enough sense to get you started.

Pray this prayer to get into it:
Forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Help us appreciate the fact that in order to give us new life,
you had to take away the sin and guilt that were killing us.

Let's pause and breathe for a moment. No matter what topic, no matter what day, no matter what: God is holding you. Before we talk about it or spring into action on it, let's just celebrate that our God is a God of forgiveness.  
Have mercy on us, O God, because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion, forgive us.
Free us from the guilt that weighs us down, from the sin that controls us.
We have sinned against you, and done what is wrong in your eyes.
We are well aware of the wrong we do: the words we speak which wound,
the unloving thoughts and actions which hurt others and ourselves.
We know that these things distance us from you,
and keep us from recognizing your life in us.
You desire complete honesty from us. 
We know that nothing can be hidden from you.
And so we lay open our hearts to you now—
we lay before you those things for which we need your forgiveness,
and those things from which we long to be set free.

Gracious God, enter our hearts.
Teach us what it means to have you at the center of our lives.
We need your mercy and forgiveness.
Only you can make us whole again;
only you can fill us with lasting joy,
only you can transform our weakness into strength.

O God, look no longer on our past mistakes,
but on the aspirations and longing of our hearts.
Create in us clean hearts, O God, open and receptive to your Spirit.
Create in us clean hearts, O God, 
washed clean from bitter thoughts,
from shame, guilt, envy and anger.

Create in us clean hearts, O God, free from anxiety about the past or the future,
confident in the presence of your Holy Spirit, and in your gift of peace.
Create in us clean hearts, O God,
cleansed by your mercy, and made strong by your love.

Loving and merciful God, we have so little to bring to you.
But what we have, we willingly give:
our humble spirits and contrite hearts.

We long to be your disciples, to follow your path for our lives,
and to share with others the good news of your love and mercy. Amen.
Let's push at our definitions of forgiveness.

Luke 23:24 | Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.
  • ἀφίημι (ἄφεσις). To dismiss, release, or send something away something. In the Greek-speaking world this word was used to describe someone throwing a projectile like a spear or shooting an arrow. It also was used to describe when someone would "give up" a loud cry perhaps from pain or anguish. It was used in a legal way to refer to a person divorcing another or someone being leased from a debt or loan. ἀφίημι can also simply physically describe separating yourself and moving away from a place.
    • How does this picture of forgiveness change the way you've thought about it?

Romans 5:10 | For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
  • καταλλάσσω. Reestablishment of a broken relationship. κατα (against) + ἀλλάσσω (to change): to change that which exists between two parties and is facing each other. καταλλάσσω can't happen just being viewing things in a different light or pretending something isn't there. καταλλάσσω requires a substantive change in that which exists between two parties. The reconciliation that Jesus wrought actually changes something. therefore, a forgiven sinner never has to question if the visage of God will forget its favor. God's view of the forgiven sinner exists because something has changed, not because he's spinning mind tricks on himself to make it okay. 
    • How does this picture of forgiveness change the way you've thought about it? 

In summary, a biblical concept of forgiveness is declaring that someone who incurred a debt against you by wronging you is no longer obligated to satisfy that debt. A person is able to do this because Christ has covered their sin and changed the space between the two people.
With that in mind, interpret this parable:
Matthew 18:23-35
“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

  • To whom does this parable's warning apply? 
  • What does this parable teach us about living a "forgiven" life? 
  • Get with a partner. What about this parable is challenging to you? See what insights or thoughts your partner has, then pair up with another group and share.
Joining (and Enhancing) the Conversation

There is, especially since the BLM and MeToo movements, a lot of literature about fostering forgiveness "in the workplace." It's a generally good, nuanced conversation - but it is often different from the conversation that the Bible is having about forgiveness.

Read this article and discuss how the voice here is different from that in the Bible. 

No Comments