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“But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,” or to say, “Arise and walk”? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins’—then He said to the paralytic, ‘Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.’ ” (Matthew 9:4-6)
The emphasis Jesus gives here is incredible. I think He intended to heal the paralytic all along, but His purpose was to teach a greater lesson to those who questioned Him. Even in the midst of miraculous physical healing, Christ’s forgiveness was by far the greater miracle in this story. And even then, He chose to use physical healing as a sign of that forgiveness.
But what about that forgiveness? What did it really do? In the man’s life, it abolished shame. In his day, physical handicaps were thought of as punishment for sin, and whether or not that was true, he likely carried around a huge emotional burden of shame and worthlessness. When Jesus told him that his sins were forgiven, it may very well have issued more relief than the physical healing by itself.
Likewise, in our own journeys, it is imperative that we seek forgiveness from those we’ve hurt, and we need to freely receive forgiveness from our Heavenly Father. If we are held captive by shame and condemnation, we cannot bear the freedom to be ourselves and to walk rightly before God. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1)
But seeking forgiveness is not the primary focus of this section. You see, forgiveness can have an effect on the forgiven, but its primary effect is for the forgiver. By forgiving the sins of the paralytic, Christ was inviting the man into relationship. Through forgiveness, Jesus showed the man that He loved him so much that He couldn’t stand for there to be anything in the way of true and intimate relationship between the two of them. Forgiveness is and always has been about God’s desire for relationship. This story is all about Him, remember?
And so forgiveness is almost all about the forgiver, just like love is all about the lover (as true love requires nothing in return). It does tear down walls that can stand in the way of relationships, so there is a mutual benefit available, but the primary benefit is for the one who is forgiving.

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