What is forgiveness?

“The Lord regenerates us from Divine Mercy. This is done from our infancy down to the last of our life in the world, and afterward to eternity. For this reason, it is from Divine Mercy that the Lord withdraws us from evils and falsities, and leads us to the truths of faith and goods of love, and afterward keeps us in these. After this, in Divine Mercy, the Lord raises us to heaven, and makes us happy. All this is what is meant by the forgiveness of sins from mercy.” Secrets of Heaven 9452 Emanuel Swedenborg

    Our English word “forgive” originally meant to “give up”, such as giving up the desire to punish another person for what they did. It implies that the other person has incurred an obligation with us. This is easiest to see in the case of another person owing us money. If that is the problem, we forgive them if we give up the idea of being paid back. Forgiveness is like handing them a note that says: “Paid in full.”

    In religious circles, the word “remission” is used to mean forgiveness. Literally that word means to “send away.” If a Medical Doctor says that your disease is in “remission”, it means that it has somehow been cleared away from your body.

    In Old Testament times the High Priest was to cast lots for two goats. One was to be offered as a sacrifice, a sin offering. The other was to be sent alive into the wilderness as a scapegoat. (Leviticus 16:6-10)
These days we use the word “scapegoat” to refer to an innocent person who is made to take the punishment that someone else deserves, but that was not the meaning in the Hebrew Scriptures. Originally it was “escapegoat”, the idea being that it was allowed to escape, but was sent away into the desert. It is a vivid picture of the evils of the people being remitted, or sent away.

    For us, the issue of forgiveness is the issue of being willing to separate the misdeeds of another person or people, by separating the sin, and letting it be sent off into oblivion. In that way we are in effect saying to the other person: “I think that you have done something evil, and I am in my own heart going to separate that sin from you. I will not be your accuser, judge or jury. I let the sin go off into the wilderness.”

    If that sounds difficult, consider this – the Lord does exactly that with us. But with this difference. He not only removes the blame of sin from us, but also heals the part of us that intended sin in the first place. That is why He is called the Redeemer, or the one who “Buys back” the person who has incurred a debt he cannot repay.

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Isaiah 43:25

“There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love.” – Bryant H. McGill

Task: Think of a time in your life when you felt forgiven, either by another person, or by God, and recall what that felt like.