By prathanchorruangsak

The English transitive verb to forgive has Germanic origins; among other things, it means a victim, in their private and personal capacity and for the sake of happier, healthier, and more peaceful relationships, voluntarily gives up resentment or anger or revenge for a misdeed.

Besides, the verb often refers to pardoning a debt or an offence or an obligation, or in biblical terms, a sin. While the misdeed itself is forgiven and forgotten at the personal level, the consequences of that misdeed can linger for a long time.

Absolving the victimizer from these consequences entails sacrifices for the victim. When the intentional and malicious offence affects the public life, then forgiveness is not easy. Civil and criminal courts of law will decide on the severity of punishment. They will follow the conventional codes of law.

Indic religious traditions emphasize the law of karma that considers both the intension and actual deed of the doer; the consequences of the same intention and deed impact the soul of doer, affect its rebirth until the doer neutralizes the consequences through meritorious (religious and ritual) acts not only in this life, but in and through the countless lives in future.

This worldview has no room for forgiveness because it would negate justice; it assumes that the provision of forgiveness might persuade the victimizers to commit more misdeeds; finally, the society will become chaotic and ungovernable.

This is probably the reason when most Indic languages including Tamil do not have words for forgiveness. They emphasize patience and forbearance (kṣamā and kṣāntiḥ in Sanskrit-based languages and poṟuttal in Dravidian languages).

Opinions are divided about the Tamil noun maṉṉippu (‘forgiveness’): some believe that it comes from the Urdu noun maaf or the Telugu noun mannimpu.

Few others contend that it is directly derived from the Tamil verbs maṉṉu (‘to be steady, endure’) and maṉṟāṭu (‘to entreat’). In any case, after the dawn of Christianity in Tamil soil, the noun maṉṉippu has become a common word.

The Tamil use it to seek forgiveness from pāvam (‘sin, vice, misfortune’).The Bible offers stories of God’s forgiveness to fallible and failing human beings beginning with Adam and Eve in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, to the final restoration of humanity in Revelation, the last book of the Bible.

God did not give up on humans. The Hebrew Scripture employs two verbs to express forgiveness: sālach (to forgive, pardon’) occurs 49 times exclusively in relation to God (Exodus 34:9, Amos 7:2).

The most common Hebrew verb, occurring 672 times, is nāsa (‘to lift, take away, carry off’). God’s eternal attributes love, grace, justice and righteousness, holiness and truth enable God to take away human sin (e.g., scape goat as in Leviticus 16:21–22), not to give up on human failures, and to provide them opportunities for a fresh start.

The book of Jonah epitomises God’s forgiveness for all humans. The New Testament uses 332 times the verb afiēmi (‘to forgive, remit, release, pardon, pass over, tolerate, abandon, set free, let loose”, etc).

It is based on the power of the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive sins (Matthew 9:6) and on his substitutionary death on the cross to meet God’s justice (1 John 1:7–9).

Consistent and deliberate resistance to God’s promptings through the Holy Spirit amounts to unpardonable sin (Mark 3:22–30 and Mathew 12:22–32).

Otherwise, Jesus and his apostles encourage humans to seek God’s forgiveness and to forgive each other (Matthew 6:14, Ephesians 4:32).

In this sense, forgiveness re-establishes the vertical and horizontal relationships among human beings.

Histories of Christians, including saints, demonstrate the fundamental fact that no Christian is sinless; however, as forgiven sinners they can restart their lives and aspire to serve God and fellow humans better.

Thus, forgiveness provides hope for a better humanity.