Luke 5:20b (CEV)
… he said to the crippled man, “My friend, your sins are forgiven.”
It took a really long time for God to bring healing to the story I was telling you yesterday. It took a lot of tears; a lot of journaling; a lot of long conversations; a lot of wrestling through theology and scripture and psychology and a whole lot of other things. And most importantly, it took a whole lot of experiencing people loving me – even when I messed up before I started to understand that this forgiveness Jesus offers is also a really, really long way away from what I heard about growing up.
The Greek word for ‘forgiveness’ that’s used here is apheōntai. It turns out it doesn’t say much about debts being cancelled, like I had been taught. This isn’t about some legal transaction. It’s not about God screwing up his eyes and having his hand twisted behind his back until he finally concedes and let’s us ‘off the hook’. In fact, apparently it means (a) I send away, (b) I let go, release, permit to depart, (c) I remit, forgive, (d) I permit, suffer.
So what if all of that emotional pain, all of that turmoil, all of those feelings of worthlessness that the crippled man had endured evaporated the moment Jesus said these words? What if all of the things he’d thought about, maybe said or done in reaction to his pain that had left him riddled with shame, what if that shame disappeared, too, in that moment. What if that was actually what it meant when Jesus said ‘your sins are forgiven’? What if we were to rewrite Jesus’ words something like this:
“My friend, I release you from all of the pain and the hurt and the doubt.”
“My friend, I free you from all of the feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy that you wrestle under.”
“My friend, I send away your sense of isolation, your sense of being unseen, your sense of being unknown.”
“My friend, I choose to enter into your place of deepest suffering and sit with you in the centre of it so that you will know that you are not alone.”
You see, it turns out that would be a forgiveness for all of us. That would be something to get excited about. That would, in fact, be not just good news, but awesome news!
Your ‘sins’ – your pain, your hurt, your loneliness, your trauma, your shattered hopes and dreams, your flailing attempts to deal with the brokenness of your own life that have sadly just made the brokenness of other peoples’ lives worse – all of those things that make you feel guilty and ashamed – are forgiven.
Jesus came to take away the pain (he knows you can’t do it on your own).
Jesus came to set you free from the feeling of being trapped (he knows you don’t have the key to your cell).
Jesus came to allow you to be seen and known for who you really are (he knows there’s too many layers of ‘broken’ on top for anyone to get a good view otherwise).
Jesus came to enter in to the center of your reality and join you in the very midst of your suffering and permit himself to suffer it with you so that you don’t have to go it alone.
It turns out this isn’t just for everybody else. I’m just as shocked as this cripple was, but it turns out it’s even for me!
- How do you understand ‘forgiveness’?
- What changes if we define ‘forgiveness’ not as ‘canceling a debt that we owed’ but as sending away, releasing, letting go, or entering into the midst of our suffering or brokenness?
- Is it possible that this forgiveness might not just be for everybody else?
- Is it possible that this forgiveness might even be for you?