Forgiveness.

When Jesus told the parable of the unforgiving servant of the small debt in compare to the large debt, it was a way of speaking people understood very well in those days. It was a very good traditional and natural teaching method. The point in the parables of Jesus is that although they are not historical, at the same time they are true to life. For this reason the exaggeration in this parable might sound absurd, but the underlying truth is very real.  

Besides, when Jesus told this parable it had some reference to the Old Testament. In Genesis 4:24 is says; ‘If Cain is avenged 7-fold, truly Lamech 77-fold’. The number 7 indicates the full number. And whereas Lamech the son of Cain, the murderer of his brother Abel, is the symbol of avenge in unmeasurable times, Jesus is the symbol of forgiveness in unmeasurable times. The one who is obsessed with punishment stands here in opposition to the One Who forgives.

A word study into the original Greek for forgiveness will not be of much help as it one of those words that is used very frequently in the ancient Greek language, with even so many different meanings. Essentially the word means 'letting go' and other equivalent meanings. 

Because Jesus lived in a Hebrew-like speaking environment, the original Hebrew word might help us. In the old Testament there are 2 words mainly used for forgiving and forgiveness. One word describes the act of lifting up to describe forgiveness, and the other word in Hebrew means to cover up or cover over, but with expiation in mind.

It is the act of expiation in forgiving, which has been neglected in our contemporary society. When you look up forgiveness on the internet it now says: Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness. 

One could argue that this is not the explanation of forgiveness as it meant to be in the context of the Old and New Testament. Forgiveness in the OT resulted in reconciliation again with God. That’s why the Jews made offerings in their Temple, because it forgave their sins and reconciled them to God. 

That concept of forgiveness leading to reconciliation is not changed in the New Testament. Except that the offer to be made for sin is once and for all done through the ministry of Jesus Christ.

Many years ago I regularly went to the Church of the Nazarene in Haarlem. It’s a Christian denomination from the Weslyan or Methodist movement of the 19C in the USA. They put an emphasis on holy living and in line with this principle at a sermon the preacher told the following story.

A couple went to a prison to offer forgiveness to the criminal who had harmed them as what they believed was their Christian duty. Instead of accepting this forgiveness he laughed them in the face and assaulted them with his words. 

It is certain that at this meeting not any form of reconciliation has taken place. Even though the couple might have forgiven the criminal, that forgiveness was rejected and so essentially nothing happened that could lead to an opening of a new relationship between the criminal and the couple. What has happened might be in accordance of how forgiveness is explained in this day and age, but it is not forgiveness in Biblical terms because it not with reconciliation in mind between two parties.

Reconciliation takes place after forgiveness is asked and received. In the same way God is reconciling Himself with us after we have accepted the forgiveness we have received through Jesus Christ. To be reconciled with God is not an act of forgiveness on our side, but from God Himself. Through Christ we have received forgiveness and reconciliation, which as the parable shows is given unmeasurable times.

Whereas Lamech is the symbol of avenge, Jesus Christ is God’s Instrument of forgiveness. Forgiveness in the fullest sense of the word; leading to reconciliation between Gon and each one of us. 

Hans