Forgiveness stands as an extraordinary symptom of the presence of Jesus. Today, however, I began to think that human forgiveness differs from what God does.

When God forgives sins they vanish,for “as far as the east is from the west – that is how far he has removed our rebellious acts from himself” (Psalms 103:12 God’s Word).

I cannot accept that humans can do this, despite the belief by sacramental denominations who think the priest can say words that truly erase sin. Instead, what humans do has a different effect. I cannot know the heart of the people who sin against me. Did they act out of utter ignorance, truly not knowing what they do? Or did they act with true malice, purposefully doing harm to me?

When I forgive I cannot say that the slate with the notes about their sin has altered to a clean slate. In uncounted places the Bible makes clear that repentance for sin includes acts of restoration (like returning what we stole with a penalty added on, or some consequence).

So what God does involves repairing the relationship broken by sin and removing the memory of it from the divine mind. For humans our act cannot duplicate what God can do, since only in our sinfulness do we think we are God!

Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven, as in the r...

Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven, as in the reconciliation of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 33, after Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, illustration from a Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When someone sins against me I allow the harm to repeat over and over every time I think about it and feel it again. Forgiveness must break the handcuffs that bind us to the perpetrator.

How can that happen?

It came to me that when we forgive we do not let someone off the hook, or diminish the harm they did. Instead, and this is harder than it sounds, we leave off all obligation the sinner has to me, the victim. The evil done to me does not have to be compensated for nor does the person who injured me even have to notice what happened. That would be nice, but that does not make the to-do list on my spiritual job description.

When I forgive another person I say that I will let God take over, entirely, because left to me I would mutter about revenge. Instead I won’t fantasize about the evil person getting theirs (even though the Psalms certainly reveal that potential).

When I forgive I expect nothing from the people who caused me grief. They now owe me nothing, but they must deal with God, and what that will look like remains in the purview of the Almighty.

Released from the memory and emotional trap that sin catches us in, I can pray for my enemy. Fear for their soul, standing before the Judge of all, brings a terror for anyone living under God’s will. What if they don’t figure it out and die in their sin? I don’t want that for anyone.

So I forgive those people who, over the years, have done everything from inconveniencing me to taking away my job or attacking my self-image.

The only thing I will focus on is Jesus who gave me the clean slate I cherish, the peace I have knowing that Christ did that, and the life in the Spirit (Paraclete) serving the One who loves me and whom I grow to love more and more.

How often have I made my hurt a bigger focus than Creator? God is a jealous God, and won’t share glory with any other god nor preoccupied thoughts with sin!

“Jesus answered them, ‘I can guarantee this truth: Whoever lives a sinful life is a slave to sin. A slave doesn’t live in the home forever, but a son does. So if the Son sets you free, you will be absolutely free’ ” (John 8:34-36 God’s Word).