Of course this clause is at the heart of Christian faith, but we should look carefully at the original Latin and Greek. Latin has the word, remissio, which comes from the verb to send back, and means release, cancellation, forgiveness; while the Greek has ,Ephesus, meaning liberation, release, letting go, forgiveness. There is certainly good reason to think that the image of the release or liberation of a slave may lie behind the biblical teaching . This is a little different from the usual meaning of the English ‘ forgiveness‘ in that it envisages freedom, not only from guilt or punishment, but from the power of sin, which would reflect the teaching of St Paul, and the actions of Jesus.
It seems good, nevertheless, to retain the usual translation which does point to the one who liberates believers from the power of sin, as well as from any punishment for it. Jesus announced forgiveness from sin as an evangelical promise made without confession of sin or request for pardon, as a means of transformation of the sinner’s life. The sometimes dreary concentration of the church on sin and on its management of forgiveness is not evangelical, nor is the sumptuous celebration of forgiveness without transformation of life, in some evangelical assemblies. In Jesus’ sober prayer, the request for forgiveness of sins matched by a promise to forgive others in turn, points to ‘living in a climate of forgiveness’ as the true meaning of this clause
Thomas Merton has many good thoughts on forgiveness, for example:
“God has left sin in the world in order that there may be forgiveness: not only the secret forgiveness by which He Himself cleanses our souls, but the manifest forgiveness by which we have mercy on one another and so give expression to the fact that He is living, by His mercy, in our own hearts.”
I believe in the forgiveness of sins; but when I go to forgive my enemies I realise how few there are, because I have already overcome them with lies, evasion and charm.