Image courtesy of Abundant Life Center
By Benjamin H. Liles
As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. ~ Psalm 103:12, New American Standard
Forgiveness. We talk about it as followers of Jesus the Messiah. We can say pretty and nice things about forgiving others. But do we understand what it truly means? Isaiah records God telling him, "It is I who sweep away your transgressions for My own sake and remember your sins no more" (43:25, Holman Christian Standard). It's not something we do on our own accord, scripture reveals. Even this writer penned the words, "For I will forgive their iniquities, and remember their sins no more" (Hebrews 8:12, Berean Study Bible).
It seems funny to me, but there was a real and tremendous problem with Jesus forgiving people of their wrongs. We read, "Four people came, carrying a paralyzed man. Since they could not get to Jesus because of the crowd, they dug a hole in the roof right above where he was speaking. When they got through, they lowered the mat with the paralyzed man on it. When Jesus saw the faith of these people, he said to the paralyzed man, “Young man, your sins are forgiven" (Mark 2:3-5, Expanded).
So, why did the scribes, these teachers of the law, have such a problem with Jesus forgiving this paralyzed man? They believed that only God could forgive sins. Even though they had seen the power and authority Jesus had in the Father's name (remember, Jesus did those things he saw the Father doing [see John 5:19]), they chose to regard Jesus as not just a heretic but also as a dangerous man. In a way He was. Jesus challenged them all, not just those he touched, healed, and taught, but also those who knew and walked with God. This included his own disciples, the teachers of the law, and those who had a religious spirit.
Jesus didn't have to explain himself for forgiving others. It's why he tells these leaders and teachers, "Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But I will prove to you [L so that you may know] that the Son of Man [C a title for the Messiah; Dan. 7:13–14] has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, stand up, take your mat [cot; bed], and go home" (Luke 5:23-24, Expanded). The result is that the man got up, "picked up his mat, and went home, praising God" (see Luke 5:25).
But what does it mean to forgive someone? Is it something we're commanded to do? Does it mean when something wrong between two parties that both ought to be reconciled? Peter tells us to "love one another deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8, Berean Study). He even tells us earlier in the same letter "Having purified your souls in obedience to the truth unto sincere brotherly love, love one another fervently, out of a pure heart" (1 Peter 1:22, Berean Literal).
It seems that it is a command, out of deep respect to the Church body, to reflect Jesus' light, love and goodness, in order to keep a "purified...soul; a pure heart." So, if we, as followers of the Messiah Jesus, are to show and share Him with others it means overall we are to share in one another's burdens (see Galatians 6:2). By loving one another, bearing in each other's pains and burdens, we not only fulfill the commands of Jesus, but we -- like Him -- are keeping our arms outstretched. Just as it means "as far as the east is from the west." It's a reminder that with arms wide open that neither end is completed. Everything is removed. It is held far apart and never to meet.
Father, I thank You for the love You give to me daily. I know I fail every step of the way. Yet, in Your love and grace and mercy You show me how to live every day. Thank You for the life You give me. Thank You for that love You shed on the cross. Help me in showing this same love to others, not just in a daily way, but also to show I have a deep and abiding respect for and towards You. Show me what it means to live a sacrificial life. One that is selfless and forgiving of others. I ask this in Jesus, Your Son's name. Amen.