I’ve been slowly reading through the Gospel of Mark in my Greek New Testament. As any seminary student will tell you it is all too easy to pay tuition for a Greek class and then forget to read it once you find a place in “the real world.” So, I’ve been reading through a few grammars, translating Mark, and paying close attention to what I’m reading. That’s when it hit me.
There they were, casting nets into the sea. Simon and Andrew were fishermen, but Jesus had other plans for them. He called them and they forgive their nets? What? What does that mean?
A little further down the shoreline Jesus calls to Jacob and John to come after him and they forgive their father Zebedee and the hired hands? What?
Then on the next page Simon’s mother-in-law is sick with a fever. Jesus raises her up by the hand and the fever forgives her? What?
You see, the word for forgive in the Greek New Testament is αφιημι (aphiemi). What I didn’t realize was that this word can also be translated as to abandon, to permit. That’s when the translating became more clear: they abandoned their nets; they abandoned their father; the fever abandoned her body. As I thought about this connection something amazing came over me. A wonderful thought began to surface. When God forgives our sins they abandon us!
You see, when Simon and Andrew abandoned their nets, they didn’t take any of that with them. They were net-less. When Jacob and John abandoned their father they didn’t take any part of the boat, or any of the helpers, or their dad with them. They were Zebedee-less. When Simon’s mother-in-law got out of bed and the fever abandoned her body, she didn’t hold to some of the germs. She was fever-less.
When God forgives our sins he doesn’t leave a little residual piece behind to remind us that we’re worms. We are sin-less. Wow! What an amazing thought. When God forgives he leaves no trace of sin, no gross residue to cling to us; he makes us entirely new creations! Yes, we may still try to revive the deeds of the old person, of the flesh, and we may still sin and need to ask for forgiveness, but when we do we are really, truly, honestly forgiven! That’s good news, but then more came.
As I was sitting in gathered worship this past Sunday I must confess I wasn’t really listening to the preacher. I was thinking about αφιημι, about forgiveness. I believe the Holy Spirit spoke to me and asked, “Given this new insight into forgiveness, have you really forgiven those who have sinned against you?” The answer had to be, No. Why? There was still residue of bitterness and imaginary dialogue (which I always win). There was no abandonment. Right then and there I forgave … abandoned, gone, no trace of.
Do you have that residual feeling of ickiness that comes from believing God can’t completely forgive your sins? Or perhaps you have some imaginary dialogues running around in your mind keeping you up at night. Might I suggest a word? – αφιημι (aphiemi).