Speaking theologically, an interesting New Testament word is aphiemi. As I pointed out at our congregation's Lenten Soup and Salad gathering this past Wednesday night, it literally means I release. But it's used in the New Testament for I forgive!
I've always felt that that word perfectly conveys the two-sides of forgiveness:
- We release those who have done us wrong from the consequences of "their trespasses against us";
- We also are released from the debilitating and grace-blocking burden of holding a grudge.
And we find it hard to have loving relationships with others when we refuse to get over it, too. People who won't forgive make themselves miserable in prisons that they accuse others of making, their own custom-made hells.
In a cyber-dialog I had with the author Richard Lawrence Cohen last year, I mentioned the song by Larry Norman, Weight of the World. [This song has been covered by such diverse artists as Lost and Found and Ringo Starr.] In the bridge, these lines appear:
It all comes down to who we crucify; We either kiss the future or the past goodbye.When we refuse to forgive, we may think that we're crucifying others. At least that's the self-righteous buzz we're trying to imbibe as we hold on tightly to our grudges. In fact though, we crucify our futures and our very own souls.
Christ went to a cross so that doesn't have to happen to us!
In the New Testament, the apostle Paul says that our past sins and our sinful selves must be crucified with Christ in order for the new self to rise with Christ. In forgiveness, we put the past in the past and set out to live in reliance on God and His goodness, come what may.
In a sense, it's safer to rely on past hurts and injuries of the past than to step into the future. We know our past hurts (and can catalog them), while the future is a blank screen. But God is always pulling those who surrender to Him to venture into the unknown future. (Christian faith is always more about the future than it is about the past.)
It turns out that the future isn't so unknown, though. I love the part in the New Testament book of Matthew's resurrection account where the risen Jesus instructs Mary to tell Peter and the others to go to Galilee. "There, they will see Me," Jesus says.
This is one of many indicators of how Jesus pulls us from the past--along with all our wallowing and grudge-holding--and into the future where we're with Him.
"I am with you always," He told the disciples just before He ascended into heaven. If he's with me as I venture into a future in which I let go of the past, I don't want, to turn back. I want to keep resolutely pointing toward Him. (At least, some of the time I want to follow Him, imperfect human sinner that I am!)
Got a hang up? Get over it. Let go and let God take care of it. Let go and let God take you into a future.