The Christian world has picked up a lot of baggage along the way. Some of that baggage is culturally inherited. Some of it is due to language and translation issues. Some of it is deliberately handed down in an effort to control people.
The nature of what we call sin, forgiveness, repentance, salvation, and atonement are at the heart of the confusion. Rather than go into the details of how these words were changed, let’s just go back to the original words and see what they tell us.
The following words have been rendered as “sin”, “repent”, and “forgive” by some translators. See if you can guess what the words actually mean in Greek.
hamartia: A) error, mistake OR B) a punishable offense
metanoia A) change your mind OR B) beg for an exception from punishment
aphesis A) dismiss or cast away OR B) grant an exception from punishment
Column A has the correct definitions. If you chose B on any of the above, you are burdened with the confusion and misunderstanding that have come to you. What I’m telling you is that God is not an easily offended, grudge-holding executioner who reluctantly accepts payment in pain to calm his anger.
Jesus presented God as a loving parent who gives good gifts to his children (even when they don’t “deserve” them) (Matt 5:45) and who runs out to kiss and celebrate with the ones who have rejected him as soon as they will accept his love. (Luke 15:20-24)
The word economy comes from the Greek words oikos “house” and nemein “to distribute”. The economy of God is one of love. He distributes good gifts freely and sends nobody away. (2 Nephi 26: 23-25)
It is the economy of the nemesis (also from the Greek nemein) that seeks retribution and revenge. In that economy of pain, the gifts offered are fear, shame, and guilt. This perverted gospel prevents and destroys people’s faith, because you cannot have a heart full of faith if it is full of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. That is why the nemesis is called satan (Hebrew for “adversary”) and diabolos (Greek for “accuser”).
What is to be done for those who are shackled in error, bound with guilt, and whose hearts are filled with fear?
This leads us to salvation and atonement. What are people saved from? Hell is not a fiery torture chamber at the center of the earth. It is a condition of ignorance and fear, wherein people are bound with the chains of guilt. When people come to Jesus for help, he does not shame or accuse them. He casts away their guilt (Enos 1:5-8) and teaches them to avoid error and trust God enough to follow his instructions. People cannot be saved faster than they gain knowledge because it is knowledge that leads to salvation: starting with the knowledge of the goodness of God. (Mosiah 4:6-8) Jesus himself said that it is the truth that makes you free. (John 8:31-32)
Atonement is what happens when people unite with God. It is what Jesus prayed for in his great intercessory prayer (John 17:20-23):
20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
It’s your atonement as much as it is his. You are to unite with him the same way he is united with the Father: in the harmony of wisdom and love.
If you avoid approaching God out of fear, I urge you to change your mind and trust that he is good and wants to bless you, not to punish you. He does not give guilt, he dismisses it and casts it away. He wants to teach you the truth about how to be free and enjoy a life of higher consciousness now and through the aeonic cycles of eternity as well.