FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS
Take a few minutes to pause in silence, to breathe deep, and to recenter your thoughts, your focus, and your affections on God. “As I enter now into prayer, I ask, God, that you would free me from the distractions of the day so that I may be deeply present with You.”
AND FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS, AS WE ALSO HAVE FORGIVEN OUR DEBTORS. - MATTHEW 6:12
Sin can be defined as an evil human act, which violates the rational nature of man as well as God’s nature and His eternal law. Romans 3:23 reminds us that “all have sinned” and “fall short” of God’s standard for our lives. And Romans 6:23 tells us that the price to be paid for our sin is “death”, but that the gift of God, given through His son, Jesus, is “eternal life.”
The way the Lord’s Prayer refers to our sin as “debts” should draw our attention to a story that Jesus tells in Matthew 18, where a king was owed a large sum of money. When the servant was unable to pay, he begged the king to be patient, and he was, forgiving his entire debt.
What grace! Surely that servant would be grateful and, if given the chance, would do the same for someone else, right? Wrong. Because he immediately went to a fellow servant who owed him a much smaller debt. And when that servant was unable to pay, instead of canceling the debt, he had him thrown in prison.
When the king heard about this, he was furious! He had his servant brought back to him, and in anger, threw him in prison to be tortured until he could repay his previously owed debt. And after this story, Jesus says something that sends shockwaves through the crowd:
“ THIS IS HOW MY HEAVENLY FATHER WILL TREAT EACH OF YOU UNLESS YOU FORGIVE YOUR BROTHER OR SISTER FROM YOUR HEART.” - MATTHEW 18:35
It seems that, in God’s kingdom, forgiveness is a pretty big deal.
“God, I know, that because of my sin, I owed a terrible debt that I was unable to pay. So, you sent Your son Jesus to die in my place, forgave my debt, and have given me new life. May the grace that You have shown me not only save me, but transform me, and move me towards forgiveness for those who have wronged me.”
THEN PETER CAME TO JESUS AND ASKED, “LORD, HOW MANY TIMES SHALL I FORGIVE MY BROTHER OR SISTER WHO SINS AGAINST ME? UP TO SEVEN TIMES?” JESUS ANSWERED, “I TELL YOU, NOT SEVEN TIMES, BUT SEVENTY TIMES SEVEN.
- MATTHEW 18:21-22
Even though we may feel that holding onto unforgiveness repays those who have wronged us, it is actually WE who are negatively affected by unforgiveness.
Unforgiveness makes us stuck in our past. When we refuse to forgive, we find ourselves unable to move on from our past hurts. Unforgiveness makes us bitter in our present, and hinders us from experiencing joy in what God is doing right now. Unforgiveness robs us of our future, making it impossible for us to move forward into all that God has planned to do in and through our lives. Let’s choose today that unforgiveness will not hold power over us.
‘Forgive our sins as we forgive,’
you taught us, Lord, to pray,
but you alone can grant us grace
to live the words we say.
How can your pardon reach and bless
the unforgiving heart,
that broods on wrongs and will not let
old bitterness depart?
In blazing light your cross reveals
the truth we dimly knew:
what trivial debts are owed to us,
how great our debt to you!
Lord, cleanse the depths within our souls,
and bid resentment cease;
then, bound to all in bonds of love,
our lives will spread your peace.
- Forgive Our Sins as We Forgive, by Rosamond Eleanor Herklots
IT IS BECAUSE OF HIM THAT YOU ARE IN CHRIST JESUS, WHO HAS
BECOME FOR US WISDOM FROM GOD—THAT IS, OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS,
HOLINESS AND REDEMPTION. - 1 CORINTHIANS 1:30
If this is a prayer that is to be prayed by those who are followers of Jesus-those who have already been made right before God through Jesus-then why do we need to pray “forgive us”? Imagine you’re a teenager, and you decide to take your dad’s brand new car out for a 1:00am drive. On your way to pick up your friends, you crash into a ditch. At that moment, you can have 1 of 2 reactions:
“My dad is going to kill me.”
“I need to call my dad.”
For those who are in Christ, we can rest in the security of his righteousness. But that doesn’t mean that we will always live perfectly. We are still in the process of being made perfect in Him; so we will still sin. And when we do, may we remember that we serve a God who loves us, who is our Father, and who always calls us home.