Forgiveness

(The following is a transcript of Steve Carter’s message on forgiveness. The video is also available to you.)

When Jesus came, He came for a reason.

And this reason was simply this: He wanted you to be here. Present. In the right now. Not focused on tomorrow and the future. Not living in the past. But right here.

But, for many of us, that’s really difficult. For many of us, we can’t stop thinking about tomorrow. We can’t help thinking about the future. And in that, we find ourselves quite anxious. We worry. We have stress about what tomorrow might bring. And there’s all these passages Jesus will teach us, “Don’t worry about tomorrow. For today has enough troubles of its own. Do not be anxious about anything—about any part of the future. But in everything, by prayer, bring it before God.”

He’s always calling us back to the present. And for many of us, we’re so focused on the future that we miss what God is doing right in our midst. But I don’t wanna talk about the future. I wanna talk about this group of people—who find themselves living in the past. Who’ve experienced great harm, wounds, scars, trauma, pain. You’ve had lies spoken to you. Over you. And for some apparent reason, it’s just weighing on you.

Maybe you know who you are. You’ve just experienced something. And you just can’t seem to shake it. And you find yourself hearing it and carrying this all on your back. And yet, you hear these words of Jesus, and you hear these words to be in the present, to live right here, right now, fully open to receive from God. But you really can’t, can you? Cause all of your focus, heart, and attention is over there—in the past. I know so many people who are walking each day towards the future. But their whole focus is on the past. And I keep wondering, why is this? Why can’t we, as the church, for some apparent reason, let go of all of this stuff that we are carrying? Why do we hold on to it?

The truth is, it’s destroying us.

Sure, we’re missing moments when God wants to use us. But, even more than that, scientists, researchers, are discovering that when we have unprocessed pain, trauma, discomfort—when we cannot forgive and we choose not to forgive, it actually does great harm to our bodies. Diseases. Ulcers. Some even say cancer. Because we find ourselves locked up, holding things. Maybe for you, you get so frustrated, and you feel it in your shoulders or in your back. Or maybe you watch someone, and the way that they’re just carrying their pain—their posture’s off. It’s all fixated on the past. And when your posture’s off, there’s no way you can receive from God.

Jesus says, “I came to give you life and life to the full.” But why are there so many of us just carrying so much weight? This doesn’t feel like life to the full.

You know, I wanna teach you today what the gift of forgiveness is. There was this great writer, Marilyn Elias, she writes for the USA Today. She said this:

The happiest people surround themselves with family and friends. They don’t care about keeping up with the Joneses next door. They lose themselves in daily activities. And, most importantly, they forgive easily.

How many of you are quick to forgive? How many of you are just so easily able to let somebody off the hook?

A friend of mine is a counselor in California. And he says that 75 percent of the people who come in, sit on his couch, pay him money, are wrestling with how to forgive someone. He says if the church actually taught people how to forgive, he’d be out of a job. Many of us just don’t know how to let people go.

Let me tell you what forgiveness is not. Forgiveness is not reconciliation. Reconciliation is a two-person sport. Forgiveness—it’s a solo sport. It’s just you. I think many of us are waiting for people to say, “I’m sorry.” And the truth is, most times, people never come to you to apologize. And so you’re left with the choice: Am I gonna carry this on my back until they come? Which they never do. Or is there gift possible?

The second thing is: Forgiveness is not forgetting. I hear this from people. Just forgive and forget. Just forgive and forget. No. Some of you have been deeply wounded and harmed. I’m not asking you to just, ah, forget about that. Forgiveness is a process. And for some of you today, you’re gonna begin this process, hopefully, of leaning in and actually letting some stuff go today. For some of you, you’ve just been carrying it. And I’m telling you, friends, you’re missing out on what God has for you. This free and light life. Because, man, you just got so much that you’re carrying. I wanna tell you what this gift of forgiveness is.

Now, one of the greatest prayers—I think, the greatest prayer. His disciples come up to Jesus, and they simply ask Him a question: “Rabbi, teach us how to pray.” And whenever you ask a rabbi how to pray, you are asking him, “What’s your vision for the world? What’s your mission statement? What gets you up in the morning? What do you hope to see through your teaching? What do you pray for?”

And Jesus goes, “Man, let me tell ya. Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed and holy is Your name. And Your Kingdom come here on earth as it is in Heaven.”

And the people of Israel, they were living in Roman occupation. It was a mess. And He just said, “Give us today our daily bread.” Make sure people have food. Food from the Word of God but also just tangible food. And then He says these words in verse 12: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

What I wanna do today is I want to teach you the two Greek words for forgive. I want you to see the meaning of these words. Because if you can actually receive these words, you will learn the gift of forgiveness—you will learn how to not carry so much. You will be free and light and be able to receive what God has for you.

The first Greek word that was used in Matthew—Jesus uses it when He says, “Forgive us our debts.” It’s the word aphiemi. Aphiemi. And it means this: To release and send away. Aphiemi.

See, what it means to forgive, this solo sport, this process, it literally means to be the kind of person who is able to release something and to send it away. And this idea of sending it away comes from Leviticus chapter 16. The most holy day that the Hebrew people is what we call Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement. The priest would pick out this really nice robe; he’d wear it. They would bring out two goats. And they would kind of cast lots. Roll some dice. And, basically, what would happen is one goat would go to be sacrificed as a sin offering. And the second goat was called an azazel. And it literally was this idea that this priest would then take all of the brokenness and the pain and the distortion and the sins of the people, and he would basically pray it onto this goat. Then someone would walk this goat outside of the camp, lead this goat out to the wilderness, and send it away. And it was basically this tangible picture that what people had done had been released and sent away.

That’s what forgiveness is. But it’s really, really hard, isn’t it?

It’s hard when someone does something to you to release them and send it away. Because we want to be vindicated. We want retribution. We want someone to say they’re sorry. We want things to be made right. we want justice. And forgiveness, sometimes, feels quite weak. I think sometimes when you talk about forgiveness, it just feels like, oh, it’s just so ethereal and so nice. It’s a process. It’s hard work. And you can’t release something that you have not yet named.

And so, for me, I’ve come to realize, you gotta have a moment where you get really honest and human about the weights that you’re carrying. For some of you, the weights that you’re carrying—I mean, they’re just like six-pound weights, right? I mean, it’s just like someone said something to you. And it just was like a personal jab. It hurt. And you hear it, and you’ve got maybe five of these—you’re just carrying thirty pounds every day of all of these five different jabs. It just, it just, it’s not okay. And you’re longing for the day when that person goes, “I shouldn’t have said it like that.” Most of the time, they don’t ever come. You’re just holding it.

Maybe for some of you, it’s not a six-pound weight. But someone’s been gossiping about you. And you know what gossip is? Gossip is basically someone molding, shaping, and forming and presenting you their opinion of you to a group of people. And they go, “Oh, I can see that.” And then they add to it, form, shape, mold: “Oh!” and this becomes your identity. This is why it’s so terrible at times to be a high-school student, or a junior-high student, or to work in the market place—when people begin to gossip.

And it just feels like a fifteen-pound weight that you’re carrying. And you go, “That’s not me! I’m not what you say I am! I’m so much more.”

But everyone goes, “No, that’s who you are.”

And for some of you, you’re just carrying four, five, of these fifteen-pound weights on your back. And you’re like, “Man, that’s sixty-some pounds that you’re just carrying.”

But maybe for some of you, you’ve just felt abandoned. Betrayed. You’ve had a moment where you were like, “You stood up in front of God, family, and friends and you vowed that you would love me, and then you turned your back on me and turned toward somebody else. And then everyone looks at me differently.” And you have this weight that you just carry. And it’s like, “I can’t seem to let you off the hook.” And it’s like twenty-five, thirty pounds—everywhere you go, just carrying that. Carrying that. Carrying that. And you’re waiting for a day when that person drops on their knees and says, “I’m so sorry for what I’ve done.”

And they just haven’t.

“I’m so sorry that I left you when you were a child.” And you just carry it. Every day.

And some of you, you’re carrying even more weight. It’s like trauma and abuse that you’ve experienced. Maybe emotional abuse, physical abuse. Sexual abuse. Maybe even spiritual abuse. And it just feels like this forty-pound weight that you’re just carrying. And everywhere you go, it’s there. It’s there. And I’m so sorry that you’ve had to go through that. It’s not right and it’s not okay, and maybe today will be that moment where you just begin this process.

I’m telling you it’s a process. Maybe for a six-pound weight, you can release and send it away. But for these forty-pound weights, it takes time.

One of the disciples came up to Jesus one day, and he said, “Hey, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister? Up to seven times?” Because, in rabbinic tradition, you only needed to forgive someone three times, and then you could basically let them go. You didn’t have to interact with them anymore. And Jesus could hear Peter, this overachiever, going, “I don’t do three, I do seven, I’m awesome.” And he goes, “Not seven times but seventy times seven.” And I don’t think Peter was like, pulled out his T183, you know, like, was like, “That’s 490.” Like, I don’t think it was about a literal number as much as it was about Jesus just trying to say, “We are called to forgive everyone, always.”

We are called to continue to restart relationships. We’re continuing to let people off to release and send away. But I also think there was something deeper going on. Cause, if you’re like me, you’ve had a moment where you have started a process to release aphiemi and send away aphiemi. And yet, you feel good in that moment and then, two days later, somebody triggers you, and you are reminded of that wound again. And you’re like, “Oh, I gotta aphiemi again.” Release, and send away. Release, and send away. Release, and send away.

I wonder how many of you are just carrying weight. That you’ve never named. That you’ve never been honest about. But you know that you are missing out from being fully present in the everyday moments because your whole life is fixated on the past—things that were done to you, said to you. Wrongs that were... happened to you. And maybe today, maybe, I’m praying that there would be this aphiemi moment where you could just release. Send it away. Or you could have a moment where you begin this process of learning what it means to be someone who is able to forgive. Release. And send away.

Paul uses another Greek word.

And when Paul talks about this Greek word, it’s so moving. It’s this word, it comes from Ephesians, and it says this: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” We struggle with this in Ephesians because when we find someone doing some wrong to us, we want revenge. We want to retaliate. We wanna take someone down.

And Paul’s like, that’s not how the church will respond. We will not be those kinds of people. He says this in chapter 4 verse 32, that we will “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Don’t be the kind of people who act like the world. Who want revenge. Who wanna fight. Who wanna get after it. Don’t be that kind of person.

I remember being in Chile, and I was backpacking. We were walking these kind of trails. And we came across this patch in the trail. And there was just this beautiful, beautiful smell. And I remember looking down, and there were all of these flowers that had just been trampled on. And you could just see ‘em, and they’re like so stunning, and one of my mentors just said, “You know what? That’s what forgiveness is like. Forgiveness is this aroma. Forgiveness is this odor that rises up when you feel as if you’re being trampled on.” Let me just say—is that not the Gospel? Jesus forgave. Jesus found Himself being trampled on, and just like that Ephesians passage says, there was this pleasing aroma to God. Even in the midst of being beaten. Even in the midst of taking so much of the world’s pain, brokenness, onto his shoulders, He’s like, “Let me take it.”

And the problem with many of us is we’re holding on to it. It’s like we don’t understand the full gift of the cross. The cross basically says to us, “My shoulders are bigger than yours. Give it to me. Be free in this moment. Trust me. Please. I know what it’s like to be trampled on. Give it to me.” And yet, for many of us, we don’t trust Jesus, we don’t trust the cross, we don’t trust it—we don’t know how to release and send it away, so we hold on to it, and it’s eating us from the inside out. And I just want you, church, young and old, to let it go. Begin that process to forgive as God has forgiven you.

And that word forgive that Paul uses is this word charizomai. There is aphiemi that means to release and send away, and charizomai, where we get the word charis, which is the word grace. And charizomai means this: “To give the grace you’ve received away.” Charizomai.

It brings you back to the cross. It brings you back to the place where you have received something from God. And I think there’s many people in this room who can sing songs up to God, can worship God, but when it gets really personal and isolated just for you in the cross of what God has done for you, forgiven you, I think, for many of us, it’s like, “I don’t know if it’s true.”

For some of us, we even sit in this room, and I got this response in Twitter last night, where someone tweeted at me saying, “I know God’s grace has forgiven me. But I can’t forgive me.” And all I wanted to write back was charizomai.

Maybe you sit here today and you’re like, “I just can’t forgive myself for the things I’ve done.” And I just want you to hear this from me. The Scriptures declare you are forgiven. The Scriptures declare that you can be set free. Jesus came so that none of us would bear the weight that He was willing to take on your behalf. It was for you. And not just for you, but that charizomai would happen through you—that the grace that you receive that you would say, “I’m not gonna get caught up in the way the world does it—retaliate and revenge. Get filled with rage and anger. Malice and fighting. No. I am going to aphiemi—release and send away—and charizomai. I’m going to be the kind of person who remembers my own brokenness. What I have received. And be willing to give that away.

Paul even takes it a little bit father in Colossians chapter 3. He says this: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy”—set apart—“and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Now, here’s the thing. Back in Colossae, there was this tradition that, when you would enter into the baptism waters, you would take off like your robe, you would enter into the waters, you’d be baptized, and it would be this whole sense that you had been forgiven. All of the stuff of your life would be like, kind of, shot out into the waters and washed away. You’d come out new. And then someone would hand you like this new robe, and you would put it on. And that robe, that clothes that you were putting on, they would say, “May it be filled with compassion. Kindness. Gentleness. May you put on new clothes. And when someone does something to you, may you remember this moment, may you be willing to forgive as God has forgiven you. May you charizomai.

And I think it’s really important that we understand that. We, as the church, should be leading the way in what it means to forgive. We should be the lightest and freest people on the planet. We should be the kinds of people who, it’s so easy to forgive. We should be the kind of people who go, “Okay. You cut me off, and I can read your license plate. And everything inside me wants to start driving with my knee and tell you how I feel. But aphiemi and charizomai. You’re not gonna apologize. That’s okay.”

Someone’s gonna say something at you. Charizomai. Aphiemi. Someone might wound you, and it might hurt. Betray you, and it will hurt. And, all of a sudden, in that moment, you know, I gotta being a process of charizomai and aphiemi. That’s what we have to be. That’s what Jesus wants.

Forgiveness isn’t just a concept—it’s a gift. It’s a gift to pull you into the present so that you can actually be here, not focused on yesterday, not focused on tomorrow, but present to God here, now, today. It’s critical for us. And the freest people I know are the people who know how to be fully present. Not focused on the weight and the pain.

So, the question is, how do you do it? Cause we’ve all been wounded. We’ve all been slighted. We’ve all had people gossip about us. We’ve all been dinged. We all carry some kind of weight. How do we become the kind of people that really can forgive easily and live in the present?

I wanna tell you something that I learned when I was in high school. It was really just these kind of two words—charizomai and aphiemi—but they became this phrase that I would say over and over and over again. To be honest, I still say it to this day. And I say it probably five to ten times a day. When somebody says something, does something, looks at me weird. And I know that I have this propensity to internalize it, carry it, tell myself a story about it—I just and stop and figure out, no no no, I’m about forgiveness. I am about forgiveness. And here’s the three words:

Cross. Release. Send it away.

Cross. Release. Send it away.

Cross. Release. Send it away.

Every moment, when I get dinged, slighted—any moment I find myself being triggered, I have to go back to the cross. I have to name whatever that weight is. And I have to do the very best job because it’s amazing—hurt people hurt people. They just do. They’ll say things—passive aggressive things. Aggressive things. And if you don’t know how to take that, name it, and what to do with it, you will carry it. And your body will hold all of those lies. Your posture will be off. And you’ll miss out.

In my own way, whether it’s in my office, whether it’s in my car, whether it’s in a walk around my neighborhood or the nature preserve, every time, when I get to a point where I’ve experienced that painful weight—six-, fifteen-, twenty-five- or forty-pound weight—I have to begin that process of bringing it back to the cross. And it’s one of the hardest things, is you have this moment where you just gotta sit before the cross and remember God, You rescued me from this. I’m not perfect. I’m broken and fractured in many ways. I don’t have it all together. And yet You came in, and You just flooded me with Your goodness, Your love, and Your grace, and the invitation is that I wouldn’t keep it to myself.

 And I’ll be honest, there’s times where I’m like, I don’t really wanna give it to that person.

But the more that I sit at the cross—charizomai—the more the invitation comes to release it. And there’s moments where I just find myself just pulling off to the side of the road going, “Jesus, help me. God, help me. I’m not gonna play by the world’s standards. I’m not gonna make them have to do this, this, and this to get on my good list again. I’m not gonna play it like where I’m gonna just be passive aggressive to them or I’m gonna shame them or I’m gonna try to take them down. No, no, no. It’s the charizomai. It’s the favor. It’s the grace that I’ve received that gives me the strength to release this person. And then, I at times do something creative and tangible in some capacity to try and send it away.

I started this when I was in high school. A mentor of mine just said, “Hey, it feels like you’re carrying so much.”

And I’m like, “I am.”

And we began to dream and talk about cross, release, send it away. And he said, “You know? Let’s go out. Let’s write it down.” We wrote it down in the backyard and we began to dig this hole, and we started burying some of the stuff in the back yard. We just buried it back there.

There was this old seminary in my home town. I became friends with a security guard. And there was this ancient like historic chapel. And I’d find myself kind of just talking to that security guard, and he’d let me sneak into it. And it was just, it looked like a scene from Harry Potter. And I would find myself walking into this dark, dark chapel. And I would sit in the pew, and I would just write notes, and I would leave them in the pew and in the chapel.

There were times where even in college and high school, I kept hearing about people writing notes to the North Pole. And I was like, “I’m gonna try that.” And I just wrote it, a letter in a journal, and I was like, “I’m just gonna mail it to the North Pole.” And I mailed like seven letters off to the North Pole. And someone’s like, “Man, this kid probably does need a lot of presents.”

And I just found creative ways. I would go to the beach in southern California, and I would write a word on a rock. I’d take it out with me surfing and, when I’d get out, and I would just throw it as far as I could out into the ocean. I just didn’t wanna be someone who carried this—the pain, the wounds, the angst. And there was something for me of just the cross, really releasing it at the foot of the cross and doing something to send it away.

Who, my friends, have you not forgiven? What weight are you carrying? What are you holding on to? What process have you not yet started or begun, thinking, someday, they may say they’re sorry? It doesn’t really happen. And if it does, praise God—reconciliation can happen. But, most of the time, we ought to be the people who can forgive easily. Who can charizomai—receive. Aphiemi—release. And send away.

So here’s what I wanna do. I wanna create some space for you right now. And I really want you to wrestle with this. And maybe you gotta open up your hands right now. Maybe you gotta bow your heads. Maybe you gotta close your eyes. Maybe you can journal something. But if we are going to be the people who have mastered what it means to forgive, that means we gotta be able to name the weights that we’re carrying. Maybe we just start here. Where do you carry that weight? Are you someone like me who carries it in their shoulders? And it’s almost as if like God’s little tell to you, like, “Hey, hey, hey—you’re internalizing this.” Maybe it’s your lower back. Maybe it’s like headaches or stress. Maybe you just feel like your heartbeat is just pumping—the pressure, you just feel it. Tight, tight, tight. Maybe you’re just tired all the time. Maybe just have a moment, just, no shame, be kind to yourself, and just really begin to lean in, get curious, “God, is that connected to some weight or pain experience that I have that I have just not actually participated in the gift that is called forgiveness?”

Is there a family member? A sibling? A business partner? A neighbor? A friend? An enemy? An ex? Someone who was once... a brother. Someone who was once closer than anybody else and yet they said things, they did things, they stole, they betrayed, and you’re like ugh. And maybe you’re just waiting. And maybe the invitation for you today is just to begin the process of charizomai. Cause the thing you have to ask yourself is have you betrayed anyone? Have you let anybody down? Have you ever not been perfect?

And it’ll bring you right back to the cross—to the One whose shoulders were wide enough to actually carry every part of you that wasn’t great. And He still loved. And He was still willing to die for you. And He was still willing to forgive you. And He still believes you. And He is still with you. And He will never stop loving you. And the invitation to you is to go and do likewise. As hard as it sounds. That’s the invitation. And so may you find yourself at the foot of the cross right now—receiving. Grace upon grace upon grace.

And then the gift for you is, will you begin to name that pain and aphiemi and release it? And it’s hard. Cause we wanna be right. And we want to be vindicated. We want revenge. We want them to pay. And yet the sense is... who do you need to release right now? What do you need to release right now? And how might you, this week, just creatively send it away?

You don’t need to walk up to this person and go, “I forgave you.”

They’ll be like, “For what?”

It just never works.

This is about you and God. This is about your formation, your discipleship, you going deep with Jesus, you going deep with the cross—you becoming who you need to be. Someone who can live the full life freely and lightly. Not caught up in the past. Not internalizing and carrying. But free. And that’s the life I want for you. And you can do this.

Cross. Release. Send it away.

You guys up to do that this week?

If you do this, I guarantee you—your life will be so much more free. And where the Spirit of the Lord is, the Scriptures say, you will find freedom. And that’s what God wants for you, that’s what His Son wants for you, that’s what the Spirit wants for you—a free life.

(The following is a transcript of Steve Carter’s message on forgiveness. The video is also available to you.)

When Jesus came, He came for a reason.

And this reason was simply this: He wanted you to be here. Present. In the right now. Not focused on tomorrow and the future. Not living in the past. But right here.

But, for many of us, that’s really difficult. For many of us, we can’t stop thinking about tomorrow. We can’t help thinking about the future. And in that, we find ourselves quite anxious. We worry. We have stress about what tomorrow might bring. And there’s all these passages Jesus will teach us, “Don’t worry about tomorrow. For today has enough troubles of its own. Do not be anxious about anything—about any part of the future. But in everything, by prayer, bring it before God.”

He’s always calling us back to the present. And for many of us, we’re so focused on the future that we miss what God is doing right in our midst. But I don’t wanna talk about the future. I wanna talk about this group of people—who find themselves living in the past. Who’ve experienced great harm, wounds, scars, trauma, pain. You’ve had lies spoken to you. Over you. And for some apparent reason, it’s just weighing on you.

Maybe you know who you are. You’ve just experienced something. And you just can’t seem to shake it. And you find yourself hearing it and carrying this all on your back. And yet, you hear these words of Jesus, and you hear these words to be in the present, to live right here, right now, fully open to receive from God. But you really can’t, can you? Cause all of your focus, heart, and attention is over there—in the past. I know so many people who are walking each day towards the future. But their whole focus is on the past. And I keep wondering, why is this? Why can’t we, as the church, for some apparent reason, let go of all of this stuff that we are carrying? Why do we hold on to it?

 The truth is, it’s destroying us.

Sure, we’re missing moments when God wants to use us. But, even more than that, scientists, researchers, are discovering that when we have unprocessed pain, trauma, discomfort—when we cannot forgive and we choose not to forgive, it actually does great harm to our bodies. Diseases. Ulcers. Some even say cancer. Because we find ourselves locked up, holding things. Maybe for you, you get so frustrated, and you feel it in your shoulders or in your back. Or maybe you watch someone, and the way that they’re just carrying their pain—their posture’s off. It’s all fixated on the past. And when your posture’s off, there’s no way you can receive from God.

Jesus says, “I came to give you life and life to the full.” But why are there so many of us just carrying so much weight? This doesn’t feel like life to the full.

You know, I wanna teach you today what the gift of forgiveness is. There was this great writer, Marilyn Elias, she writes for the USA Today. She said this:

The happiest people surround themselves with family and friends. They don’t care about keeping up with the Joneses next door. They lose themselves in daily activities. And, most importantly, they forgive easily.

 How many of you are quick to forgive? How many of you are just so easily able to let somebody off the hook?

A friend of mine is a counselor in California. And he says that 75 percent of the people who come in, sit on his couch, pay him money, are wrestling with how to forgive someone. He says if the church actually taught people how to forgive, he’d be out of a job. Many of us just don’t know how to let people go.

Let me tell you what forgiveness is not. Forgiveness is not reconciliation. Reconciliation is a two-person sport. Forgiveness—it’s a solo sport. It’s just you. I think many of us are waiting for people to say, “I’m sorry.” And the truth is, most times, people never come to you to apologize. And so you’re left with the choice: Am I gonna carry this on my back until they come? Which they never do. Or is there gift possible?

The second thing is: Forgiveness is not forgetting. I hear this from people. Just forgive and forget. Just forgive and forget. No. Some of you have been deeply wounded and harmed. I’m not asking you to just, ah, forget about that. Forgiveness is a process. And for some of you today, you’re gonna begin this process, hopefully, of leaning in and actually letting some stuff go today. For some of you, you’ve just been carrying it. And I’m telling you, friends, you’re missing out on what God has for you. This free and light life. Because, man, you just got so much that you’re carrying. I wanna tell you what this gift of forgiveness is.

Now, one of the greatest prayers—I think, the greatest prayer. His disciples come up to Jesus, and they simply ask Him a question: “Rabbi, teach us how to pray.” And whenever you ask a rabbi how to pray, you are asking him, “What’s your vision for the world? What’s your mission statement? What gets you up in the morning? What do you hope to see through your teaching? What do you pray for?”

And Jesus goes, “Man, let me tell ya. Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed and holy is Your name. And Your Kingdom come here on earth as it is in Heaven.”

And the people of Israel, they were living in Roman occupation. It was a mess. And He just said, “Give us today our daily bread.” Make sure people have food. Food from the Word of God but also just tangible food. And then He says these words in verse 12: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

What I wanna do today is I want to teach you the two Greek words for forgive. I want you to see the meaning of these words. Because if you can actually receive these words, you will learn the gift of forgiveness—you will learn how to not carry so much. You will be free and light and be able to receive what God has for you.

The first Greek word that was used in Matthew—Jesus uses it when He says, “Forgive us our debts.” It’s the word aphiemi. Aphiemi. And it means this: To release and send away. Aphiemi.

See, what it means to forgive, this solo sport, this process, it literally means to be the kind of person who is able to release something and to send it away. And this idea of sending it away comes from Leviticus chapter 16. The most holy day that the Hebrew people is what we call Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement. The priest would pick out this really nice robe; he’d wear it. They would bring out two goats. And they would kind of cast lots. Roll some dice. And, basically, what would happen is one goat would go to be sacrificed as a sin offering. And the second goat was called an azazel. And it literally was this idea that this priest would then take all of the brokenness and the pain and the distortion and the sins of the people, and he would basically pray it onto this goat. Then someone would walk this goat outside of the camp, lead this goat out to the wilderness, and send it away. And it was basically this tangible picture that what people had done had been released and sent away.

That’s what forgiveness is. But it’s really, really hard, isn’t it?

It’s hard when someone does something to you to release them and send it away. Because we want to be vindicated. We want retribution. We want someone to say they’re sorry. We want things to be made right. we want justice. And forgiveness, sometimes, feels quite weak. I think sometimes when you talk about forgiveness, it just feels like, oh, it’s just so ethereal and so nice. It’s a process. It’s hard work. And you can’t release something that you have not yet named.

And so, for me, I’ve come to realize, you gotta have a moment where you get really honest and human about the weights that you’re carrying. For some of you, the weights that you’re carrying—I mean, they’re just like six-pound weights, right? I mean, it’s just like someone said something to you. And it just was like a personal jab. It hurt. And you hear it, and you’ve got maybe five of these—you’re just carrying thirty pounds every day of all of these five different jabs. It just, it just, it’s not okay. And you’re longing for the day when that person goes, “I shouldn’t have said it like that.” Most of the time, they don’t ever come. You’re just holding it.

Maybe for some of you, it’s not a six-pound weight. But someone’s been gossiping about you. And you know what gossip is? Gossip is basically someone molding, shaping, and forming and presenting you their opinion of you to a group of people. And they go, “Oh, I can see that.” And then they add to it, form, shape, mold: “Oh!” and this becomes your identity. This is why it’s so terrible at times to be a high-school student, or a junior-high student, or to work in the market place—when people begin to gossip.

And it just feels like a fifteen-pound weight that you’re carrying. And you go, “That’s not me! I’m not what you say I am! I’m so much more.”

But everyone goes, “No, that’s who you are.”

And for some of you, you’re just carrying four, five, of these fifteen-pound weights on your back. And you’re like, “Man, that’s sixty-some pounds that you’re just carrying.”

But maybe for some of you, you’ve just felt abandoned. Betrayed. You’ve had a moment where you were like, “You stood up in front of God, family, and friends and you vowed that you would love me, and then you turned your back on me and turned toward somebody else. And then everyone looks at me differently.” And you have this weight that you just carry. And it’s like, “I can’t seem to let you off the hook.” And it’s like twenty-five, thirty pounds—everywhere you go, just carrying that. Carrying that. Carrying that. And you’re waiting for a day when that person drops on their knees and says, “I’m so sorry for what I’ve done.”

And they just haven’t.

“I’m so sorry that I left you when you were a child.” And you just carry it. Every day.

And some of you, you’re carrying even more weight. It’s like trauma and abuse that you’ve experienced. Maybe emotional abuse, physical abuse. Sexual abuse. Maybe even spiritual abuse. And it just feels like this forty-pound weight that you’re just carrying. And everywhere you go, it’s there. It’s there. And I’m so sorry that you’ve had to go through that. It’s not right and it’s not okay, and maybe today will be that moment where you just begin this process.

I’m telling you it’s a process. Maybe for a six-pound weight, you can release and send it away. But for these forty-pound weights, it takes time.

One of the disciples came up to Jesus one day, and he said, “Hey, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister? Up to seven times?” Because, in rabbinic tradition, you only needed to forgive someone three times, and then you could basically let them go. You didn’t have to interact with them anymore. And Jesus could hear Peter, this overachiever, going, “I don’t do three, I do seven, I’m awesome.” And he goes, “Not seven times but seventy times seven.” And I don’t think Peter was like, pulled out his T183, you know, like, was like, “That’s 490.” Like, I don’t think it was about a literal number as much as it was about Jesus just trying to say, “We are called to forgive everyone, always.”

We are called to continue to restart relationships. We’re continuing to let people off to release and send away. But I also think there was something deeper going on. Cause, if you’re like me, you’ve had a moment where you have started a process to release aphiemi and send away aphiemi. And yet, you feel good in that moment and then, two days later, somebody triggers you, and you are reminded of that wound again. And you’re like, “Oh, I gotta aphiemi again.” Release, and send away. Release, and send away. Release, and send away.

I wonder how many of you are just carrying weight. That you’ve never named. That you’ve never been honest about. But you know that you are missing out from being fully present in the everyday moments because your whole life is fixated on the past—things that were done to you, said to you. Wrongs that were... happened to you. And maybe today, maybe, I’m praying that there would be this aphiemi moment where you could just release. Send it away. Or you could have a moment where you begin this process of learning what it means to be someone who is able to forgive. Release. And send away.

Paul uses another Greek word.

And when Paul talks about this Greek word, it’s so moving. It’s this word, it comes from Ephesians, and it says this: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” We struggle with this in Ephesians because when we find someone doing some wrong to us, we want revenge. We want to retaliate. We wanna take someone down.

And Paul’s like, that’s not how the church will respond. We will not be those kinds of people. He says this in chapter 4 verse 32, that we will “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Don’t be the kind of people who act like the world. Who want revenge. Who wanna fight. Who wanna get after it. Don’t be that kind of person.

I remember being in Chile, and I was backpacking. We were walking these kind of trails. And we came across this patch in the trail. And there was just this beautiful, beautiful smell. And I remember looking down, and there were all of these flowers that had just been trampled on. And you could just see ‘em, and they’re like so stunning, and one of my mentors just said, “You know what? That’s what forgiveness is like. Forgiveness is this aroma. Forgiveness is this odor that rises up when you feel as if you’re being trampled on.” Let me just say—is that not the Gospel? Jesus forgave. Jesus found Himself being trampled on, and just like that Ephesians passage says, there was this pleasing aroma to God. Even in the midst of being beaten. Even in the midst of taking so much of the world’s pain, brokenness, onto his shoulders, He’s like, “Let me take it.”

And the problem with many of us is we’re holding on to it. It’s like we don’t understand the full gift of the cross. The cross basically says to us, “My shoulders are bigger than yours. Give it to me. Be free in this moment. Trust me. Please. I know what it’s like to be trampled on. Give it to me.” And yet, for many of us, we don’t trust Jesus, we don’t trust the cross, we don’t trust it—we don’t know how to release and send it away, so we hold on to it, and it’s eating us from the inside out. And I just want you, church, young and old, to let it go. Begin that process to forgive as God has forgiven you.

And that word forgive that Paul uses is this word charizomai. There is aphiemi that means to release and send away, and charizomai, where we get the word charis, which is the word grace. And charizomai means this: “To give the grace you’ve received away.” Charizomai.

It brings you back to the cross. It brings you back to the place where you have received something from God. And I think there’s many people in this room who can sing songs up to God, can worship God, but when it gets really personal and isolated just for you in the cross of what God has done for you, forgiven you, I think, for many of us, it’s like, “I don’t know if it’s true.”

For some of us, we even sit in this room, and I got this response in Twitter last night, where someone tweeted at me saying, “I know God’s grace has forgiven me. But I can’t forgive me.” And all I wanted to write back was charizomai.

Maybe you sit here today and you’re like, “I just can’t forgive myself for the things I’ve done.” And I just want you to hear this from me. The Scriptures declare you are forgiven. The Scriptures declare that you can be set free. Jesus came so that none of us would bear the weight that He was willing to take on your behalf. It was for you. And not just for you, but that charizomai would happen through you—that the grace that you receive that you would say, “I’m not gonna get caught up in the way the world does it—retaliate and revenge. Get filled with rage and anger. Malice and fighting. No. I am going to aphiemi—release and send away—and charizomai. I’m going to be the kind of person who remembers my own brokenness. What I have received. And be willing to give that away.

Paul even takes it a little bit father in Colossians chapter 3. He says this: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy”—set apart—“and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Now, here’s the thing. Back in Colossae, there was this tradition that, when you would enter into the baptism waters, you would take off like your robe, you would enter into the waters, you’d be baptized, and it would be this whole sense that you had been forgiven. All of the stuff of your life would be like, kind of, shot out into the waters and washed away. You’d come out new. And then someone would hand you like this new robe, and you would put it on. And that robe, that clothes that you were putting on, they would say, “May it be filled with compassion. Kindness. Gentleness. May you put on new clothes. And when someone does something to you, may you remember this moment, may you be willing to forgive as God has forgiven you. May you charizomai.

And I think it’s really important that we understand that. We, as the church, should be leading the way in what it means to forgive. We should be the lightest and freest people on the planet. We should be the kinds of people who, it’s so easy to forgive. We should be the kind of people who go, “Okay. You cut me off, and I can read your license plate. And everything inside me wants to start driving with my knee and tell you how I feel. But aphiemi and charizomai. You’re not gonna apologize. That’s okay.”

Someone’s gonna say something at you. Charizomai. Aphiemi. Someone might wound you, and it might hurt. Betray you, and it will hurt. And, all of a sudden, in that moment, you know, I gotta being a process of charizomai and aphiemi. That’s what we have to be. That’s what Jesus wants.

Forgiveness isn’t just a concept—it’s a gift. It’s a gift to pull you into the present so that you can actually be here, not focused on yesterday, not focused on tomorrow, but present to God here, now, today. It’s critical for us. And the freest people I know are the people who know how to be fully present. Not focused on the weight and the pain.

So, the question is, how do you do it? Cause we’ve all been wounded. We’ve all been slighted. We’ve all had people gossip about us. We’ve all been dinged. We all carry some kind of weight. How do we become the kind of people that really can forgive easily and live in the present?

I wanna tell you something that I learned when I was in high school. It was really just these kind of two words—charizomai and aphiemi—but they became this phrase that I would say over and over and over again. To be honest, I still say it to this day. And I say it probably five to ten times a day. When somebody says something, does something, looks at me weird. And I know that I have this propensity to internalize it, carry it, tell myself a story about it—I just and stop and figure out, no no no, I’m about forgiveness. I am about forgiveness. And here’s the three words:

Cross. Release. Send it away.

Cross. Release. Send it away.

Cross. Release. Send it away.

Every moment, when I get dinged, slighted—any moment I find myself being triggered, I have to go back to the cross. I have to name whatever that weight is. And I have to do the very best job because it’s amazing—hurt people hurt people. They just do. They’ll say things—passive aggressive things. Aggressive things. And if you don’t know how to take that, name it, and what to do with it, you will carry it. And your body will hold all of those lies. Your posture will be off. And you’ll miss out.

In my own way, whether it’s in my office, whether it’s in my car, whether it’s in a walk around my neighborhood or the nature preserve, every time, when I get to a point where I’ve experienced that painful weight—six-, fifteen-, twenty-five- or forty-pound weight—I have to begin that process of bringing it back to the cross. And it’s one of the hardest things, is you have this moment where you just gotta sit before the cross and remember God, You rescued me from this. I’m not perfect. I’m broken and fractured in many ways. I don’t have it all together. And yet You came in, and You just flooded me with Your goodness, Your love, and Your grace, and the invitation is that I wouldn’t keep it to myself.

 And I’ll be honest, there’s times where I’m like, I don’t really wanna give it to that person.

But the more that I sit at the cross—charizomai—the more the invitation comes to release it. And there’s moments where I just find myself just pulling off to the side of the road going, “Jesus, help me. God, help me. I’m not gonna play by the world’s standards. I’m not gonna make them have to do this, this, and this to get on my good list again. I’m not gonna play it like where I’m gonna just be passive aggressive to them or I’m gonna shame them or I’m gonna try to take them down. No, no, no. It’s the charizomai. It’s the favor. It’s the grace that I’ve received that gives me the strength to release this person. And then, I at times do something creative and tangible in some capacity to try and send it away.

I started this when I was in high school. A mentor of mine just said, “Hey, it feels like you’re carrying so much.”

And I’m like, “I am.”

And we began to dream and talk about cross, release, send it away. And he said, “You know? Let’s go out. Let’s write it down.” We wrote it down in the backyard and we began to dig this hole, and we started burying some of the stuff in the back yard. We just buried it back there.

There was this old seminary in my home town. I became friends with a security guard. And there was this ancient like historic chapel. And I’d find myself kind of just talking to that security guard, and he’d let me sneak into it. And it was just, it looked like a scene from Harry Potter. And I would find myself walking into this dark, dark chapel. And I would sit in the pew, and I would just write notes, and I would leave them in the pew and in the chapel.

There were times where even in college and high school, I kept hearing about people writing notes to the North Pole. And I was like, “I’m gonna try that.” And I just wrote it, a letter in a journal, and I was like, “I’m just gonna mail it to the North Pole.” And I mailed like seven letters off to the North Pole. And someone’s like, “Man, this kid probably does need a lot of presents.”

And I just found creative ways. I would go to the beach in southern California, and I would write a word on a rock. I’d take it out with me surfing and, when I’d get out, and I would just throw it as far as I could out into the ocean. I just didn’t wanna be someone who carried this—the pain, the wounds, the angst. And there was something for me of just the cross, really releasing it at the foot of the cross and doing something to send it away.

Who, my friends, have you not forgiven? What weight are you carrying? What are you holding on to? What process have you not yet started or begun, thinking, someday, they may say they’re sorry? It doesn’t really happen. And if it does, praise God—reconciliation can happen. But, most of the time, we ought to be the people who can forgive easily. Who can charizomai—receive. Aphiemi—release. And send away.

So here’s what I wanna do. I wanna create some space for you right now. And I really want you to wrestle with this. And maybe you gotta open up your hands right now. Maybe you gotta bow your heads. Maybe you gotta close your eyes. Maybe you can journal something. But if we are going to be the people who have mastered what it means to forgive, that means we gotta be able to name the weights that we’re carrying. Maybe we just start here. Where do you carry that weight? Are you someone like me who carries it in their shoulders? And it’s almost as if like God’s little tell to you, like, “Hey, hey, hey—you’re internalizing this.” Maybe it’s your lower back. Maybe it’s like headaches or stress. Maybe you just feel like your heartbeat is just pumping—the pressure, you just feel it. Tight, tight, tight. Maybe you’re just tired all the time. Maybe just have a moment, just, no shame, be kind to yourself, and just really begin to lean in, get curious, “God, is that connected to some weight or pain experience that I have that I have just not actually participated in the gift that is called forgiveness?”

Is there a family member? A sibling? A business partner? A neighbor? A friend? An enemy? An ex? Someone who was once... a brother. Someone who was once closer than anybody else and yet they said things, they did things, they stole, they betrayed, and you’re like ugh. And maybe you’re just waiting. And maybe the invitation for you today is just to begin the process of charizomai. Cause the thing you have to ask yourself is have you betrayed anyone? Have you let anybody down? Have you ever not been perfect?

And it’ll bring you right back to the cross—to the One whose shoulders were wide enough to actually carry every part of you that wasn’t great. And He still loved. And He was still willing to die for you. And He was still willing to forgive you. And He still believes you. And He is still with you. And He will never stop loving you. And the invitation to you is to go and do likewise. As hard as it sounds. That’s the invitation. And so may you find yourself at the foot of the cross right now—receiving. Grace upon grace upon grace.

And then the gift for you is, will you begin to name that pain and aphiemi and release it? And it’s hard. Cause we wanna be right. And we want to be vindicated. We want revenge. We want them to pay. And yet the sense is... who do you need to release right now? What do you need to release right now? And how might you, this week, just creatively send it away?

You don’t need to walk up to this person and go, “I forgave you.”

They’ll be like, “For what?”

It just never works.

This is about you and God. This is about your formation, your discipleship, you going deep with Jesus, you going deep with the cross—you becoming who you need to be. Someone who can live the full life freely and lightly. Not caught up in the past. Not internalizing and carrying. But free. And that’s the life I want for you. And you can do this.

Cross. Release. Send it away.

You guys up to do that this week?

If you do this, I guarantee you—your life will be so much more free. And where the Spirit of the Lord is, the Scriptures say, you will find freedom. And that’s what God wants for you, that’s what His Son wants for you, that’s what the Spirit wants for you—a free life.