Not too long after the divorce, James’s ex-wife proclaimed Jesus Christ as her personal savior. She also vowed to take revenge on James, and her first act to advance that aim was to move herself and their two children 1,500 miles away. This made visitation a costly, once or twice a year thing.
James was an atheist, but he certainly had no trouble endorsing the Christian notion of forgiveness, which is mentioned about forty-four times in the New Testament. The huge majority of these occur in the Gospels in the teaching of Jesus, but also six times in Acts, three times in Paul’s letters, three times in Hebrews, once in James, and twice in John.
The etymology of the Greek word aphesis suggests freedom. The root idea is that of being “sent out, sent forth.”
It is a word that nullifies all the bondage into which our sins have brought us—of guilt, of pollution, of power. It simply declares that by forgiveness we are set free. Not free merely from the penalties, but fully released from sins, their guilt gone, their pollution ceased, their power broken.
James could forgive his ex-wife for her two-decades-long campaign of revenge. But she could never forgive him. He might have asked her why, but he didn’t, because he knew she had no answer.