Jesus was teaching here about the quality of forgiveness His followers must practice. It must be from the heart. His response to Peter concerning the number of times we forgive others, ruled out any limits (Matt 18:22). It is also not about how often that same person has wronged us and sought for forgiveness before. Still, we must forgive them wholeheartedly!
Aphiemi, Greek word used for forgiveness in the text refers to the act of putting something away or laying it aside. It means to release from the guilt or penalty of an offence. In this sense, the English word does not adequately capture the total import.
*Aphiemi* was used to describe the voluntary release of a person or an object over which one has legal or actual control.
Jesus’ choice of word then comes with the implication that we have legal or actual control over those who wrong us, and that’s why He said to set them free or release them from our hearts. Yes, we may be justified to deal with them as they deserve, but He says to *willingly give up that right*. The parable of the unforgiving servant who was released though he was to be imprisoned by law, illustrates this idea best. But this same man refused to follow the principle of aphesis, to release his fellow servant who was just a small bit under his legal control which was so insignificant compared to that of his master. It cost his master a great deal to set him free. That’s why his master used his right to exert control over him again.
It’s far more than the kind of emotional forgiveness we go through. Most of the time, we are equally guilty of the same wrongs before God, and we pray to God, seeking mercy, and release from the power of sin. We are also under our Master’s far greater legal control. When God forgives us, He releases us from the penalty and guilt of our sins.
When we claim to have forgiven others, we still want them to feel guilty, tormented by their conscience as we bring it up again and again at the least opportunity. Instead of setting people free when we forgive them we actually do desire to exert some controls over them.
It is time we learned to forgive qualitatively. Set them free from our hearts, keeping in mind that we have received Aphiemi so we can also give Aphiemi to others.
Have a blessed day.