We get at least a partial idea of what forgiveness involves when we read Jesus’ statement explaining that a king who was owed 10,000 talents—an astronomical amount—“had compassion” on the slave who owed him this money, “released him, and forgave him the loan” (Matt. 18:27).
Several elements in Jesus’ statement help us understand what forgiveness means; here we will focus on the term translated released. Depending on the context, this word usually means to set free, to set at liberty, to pardon, to allow to depart, or to dismiss. It also can mean to put away (as with a divorce; see Matt. 1:19), or to dismiss or send away (as is the case in Matt. 14:22). In Matthew 18:27, the word clearly means to set free or to pardon. Here are some places where the term carries the parallel ideas of setting free, setting at liberty, and releasing: Matthew 27:17; Luke 13:12; John 19:10; Acts 26:32.
It’s interesting that in Luke 6:37, the very same word is used twice and is translated forgive and be forgiven respectively. We therefore can see the overlap of meanings with regard to this word. Forgiving someone involves releasing that person or setting him or her free. From what? From the obligation created by the offense. As Charles Stanley has said in his book Forgiveness ([Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1987], 16),
“Forgiveness is ‘the act of setting someone free from an obligation to you that is a result of a wrong done against you.’ For example, a debt is forgiven when you free your debtor of his obligation to pay back what he owes you.”
And significantly, when one forgives, he also releases himself from the prisons of anger, resentment, and bitterness. Though not ideal in every respect (for sin has occurred, sometimes accompanied by a great deal of hurt), forgiveness is in many ways a win-win for everyone involved. Certainly it is God’s way, and every believer should practice it freely.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations in SundaySchoolZone.com materials are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.