Photo Credit: FBC Yorktown, NY
“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” – Matthew 6:12
Early in Jesus’ earthly ministry, he preached out on a hillside to a great throng of people. This Sermon on the Mount set in motion the public teaching of Christ. In it, he focused on the hearts of men and women rather than on the religious law.
Toward the end of this sermon, he taught those in hearing how to pray. Within this beautiful prayer is the verse above:
“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
In this short verse, we hear both our need for God’s forgiveness as well as our need to forgive others.
All my life, I have heard how important it is to forgive:
- “Keep short accounts.” – my mama
- “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Lewis B. Smedes
- “Don’t retry people in the court of your emotions.” – Tom Elliff
- “As long as you don’t forgive, who and whatever it is will occupy a rent-free space in your mind.” – Isabelle Holland
The verse from the Lord’s Prayer calls us to ask God’s forgiveness for the debt of sin we owe and are unable to pay (thus needing Jesus as Savior). We ask God’s forgiveness as we forgive others – even if we are determined they owe us something (thus the word debts/debtors).
Seeking forgiveness for ourselves and forgiving others have high priority to God. They both relate to keeping our hearts pure before the Lord, keeping us from having a seared conscience, and acting for the sake of our brother/sister, restoring our fellowship with him/her (unity).
It is urgent that we ask for forgiveness and take action to forgive. Right away.
As soon as we sense, or hear, or are made aware that we have sinned against someone, we need to move to make it right. Quickly. There is much at stake: our right relationship with that person, and guarding our own hearts from apathy, justifying ourselves, or shifting blame. In other words, sin heaped upon sin. When we remember how much God has forgiven us, we are tuned into the destructive nature of sin on ourselves and others.
Then, on the flip side, if someone has sinned against us, go to him and seek peace…be reconciled. – from Matthew 18:15-17
In my 20s, I had this great friend and roommate. She required very little from me. In fact, we got into a routine of her taking out the garbage and me letting her. It just seemed she preferred doing it, or so I wrongly thought. It may seem a small thing, but it grew big as sin does when it is left uncorrected. After some time, it became a point of contention, and she confronted me with my lack of care for her in this. I was truly sorry and asked her forgiveness.
She wasn’t ready to just let me off with my “I’m sorry.” We were both pretty serious Christ followers at that time, and I blurted out: “You HAVE to forgive me.” We knew what the Scripture said on unforgiveness.
She forgave me, and that conversation was a turning point in our friendship. I am forever thankful for her courage in confronting my sin and forgiving me. We are still friends, many years later.
When Jesus told his disciples to pray for forgiveness as they forgive others did he not, then, mean that I should pray something like this: “Father, forgive me for my failure today to forgive [Dave]. I was irritable and wrapped up in myself and when he said what he said I flew off the handle at him and held a grudge all day, savoring in my mind how I might show him up, and keeping count of all the times he wronged me. My conscience smote me this afternoon when you reminded me of your constant mercy toward me. So I went to him and apologized (Mark 11:25). I do not desire to hold the grudge any longer. You have rid me of my selfish indignation and so I pray you will forgive my failure to forgive [Dave] earlier today and let me not fall into that temptation again.” Forgiveness is not a work by which we earn God’s forgiveness. It flows from a heart satisfied with the mercy of God and rejoicing in the cancellation of our own ten million dollar debt (Matthew 18:24). With man it is impossible, but not with God. – John Piper
It is not easy to forgive always. Some wounds are deep and reopened often. God gives grace. We cling to Him and to the amazing grace we have because of His forgiveness. Our emotions may lag behind and may take time, but we can forgive in an instant. Mark it down and remember it to God, ourselves, and (when necessary) the Evil One who accuses. We can forgive in an instant, and healing will begin.
Two songs come to mind in thinking about our hearts toward forgiveness. David Crowder’s Forgiven and Matthew West’s Forgiveness. They both take us to the very teaching of Christ – how much our sin separated us from God – and how we who are forgiven from our burden of sin will never want hold onto the sin of unforgiveness. The forgiven forgive.
Worship with me with the help of these two songs pointing us to a heart of forgiveness, a heart bent toward God. A heart He tenders toward those who need forgiveness, too.
Heavenly Father, thank You for this pattern of prayer that Jesus taught. Give me a gentle spirit and help me to be quick to forgive all those who have hurt or abused me… knowing that for Christ’s sake I have been forgiven of so much. I pray that I may maintain close fellowship with You, and be swift to forgive those who sin against me – in Jesus name, AMEN.” – Daily Verse