The Lord's Prayer (Part Four)


Forgive Us Our Debts as We Forgive Our Debtors

In the Lord's Prayer Christ leads us to pray: "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." What do you think Jesus means whenever He says "as we forgive our debtors?" Does He mean that God will not forgive us if we do not forgive others? Or does He mean that God will forgive us only to the extent that we forgive others? What do you believe this means?

The NT and OT use several words to describe sin. The word translated "sin" (hamartia, ha-mar-TEE-ah) means "missing the mark." I am aiming for the bullseye; however, there is something wrong with the bow or arrow which causes me to miss the mark. "Trespass" views sin as going outside the parameters God sets for us morally. In many ways the OT Law was viewed as a fence. We were to live inside the fence and not go outside it. Once we did, we trespassed against God's Law. Finally, "debt" has the idea of something we owe God. The word "forgive" literally means "to let go." In other words, when God forgives us our debts, He lets them go. The same with us as our forgive people indebted to us.

Notice that this is the only element in the Lord's Prayer which Jesus develops. Right after issuing the Lord's Prayer Jesus develops this element. What does He say when He develops this element (Matthew 6:14-15)?

I believe that the Christian who has truly experienced God's forgiveness is going to be forgiving towards others in turn. How can I withhold forgiveness from others after God has forgiven me for all I have done? When you see the movie The Passion of the Christ, you see God's love for us. How in the world can we ever withhold love from even the most unlovely?

The real problem is that most of us don't believe we've done anything all that bad. We compare ourselves to others and feel like we're pretty good, that God is actually quite lucky to have us in His kingdom. The problem is that we are comparing ourselves to the wrong people. Instead we are to compare our righteousness with Christ's righteousness. When we do that, we discover we're not quite as righteous as we thought we were.

The most powerful parable illustrating this principle involves a rich master, a slave in debt up to his ears, and another slave who owes some money to the first slave (Matt. 18:21-35).
   What incident happens between Jesus and Peter which introduces this parable?
   According to Jesus how often should we forgive others?
   How much money did the slave owe his master?
   What was the master's response to the slave's debt?
   How did the slave respond?
   What did the master do after the slave had begged for mercy?
   How much money did the second slave owe the first slave?
   What did the second slave do when he was confronted about his debt and what was the first slave's response?
   Who informs on the first slave to his master?
   How does the master respond when he discovers the way the first slave treated the second?
   How does this parable relate to us, God, and others we need to forgive?

Another teaching of Jesus shows us how serious He is about us forgiving others. We as Christians believe that worshiping God is extremely important. Yet according to Jesus if I am offering a sacrifice to God during worship and realize that a brother has something against me, what should I do (Matt. 5:23-25)?

In other words, attempts at reconciliation are more important than worship itself. Why do you think this is so?

According to 1 John 4:20 why can't I keep on hating (refusing to forgive) my brother in Christ?

What does James say to those who bless God and yet curse people (James 3:9)?

Notice that forgiving somebody does not mean that you are admitting that that person was right. Forgiving somebody implies that the person you're forgiving was wrong.

I believe that several items are in play here as we forgive others. Recently, I was fortunate to view The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson. I can't believe people walked into that movie open-minded and came away saying it was anti-Semitic. There are evil members of the Sanhedrin and good members of the Sanhedrin. There are vile Jews in the crowd, and then there's Simon of Cyrene who bears Jesus' cross for Him. Rather I came away with the following impressions:
   (1) Our sins are black. We make light of them, but God does not. They are black.
   (2) The sufferings of Christ were so intense that they can cover any and every sin other than the one of rejecting Him. There's nothing you or I can ever do, except for rejecting Him, that His blood cannot cover.
   (3) As Christians we are to be one and loving towards each other. Not only have I received Christ's great love displayed at Calvary; you have also. Who am I to hate you when Christ has loved you so dearly?
   (4) If Christ forgave His enemies after all they did to Him, who am I to hold grudges against somebody who has done far less worse things to me? "But they haven't asked my forgiveness," you might say. So? The chief priests did not ask Jesus' forgiveness either. We are to have a forgiving attitude no matter what that person has done to us.

Below is a table to help you work through 2 categories of people: (1) people who need to forgive you and (2) people you yourself need to forgive. If you've wronged somebody and need to ask their forgiveness, go ask their forgiveness. ("Oh, but that was such a long time ago!" Somebody in their 60's recently told me that an old schoolmate of theirs recently told them to take their name off their mailing list because they were still upset about something that happened over FORTY YEARS AGO! If you can't remember anybody you've wronged, ask the Holy Spirit during prayer. He will be glad to help you do this.) Also, be sure that when you ask for forgiveness that you don't blame them in the process. It's your sins you're dealing with, not theirs. Next, if you need to forgive somebody, do it now before you let the day pass by. Paul says it is OK to be angry on 2 conditions (Eph. 4:26-27). What are those 2 conditions?

You don't have to tell them you're forgiving them. You do that only when they come to you for forgiveness.

As you work through the table, see if you've wronged or been wronged by any of the following: spouse, parent, child, co-worker, Christian at church, any friend.

Person Who Needs to Forgive Me Person I Need to Forgive
. .
. .
. .
. .

This topic may be bigger for our church than any of us realize. I will never forget that in 1996 BF asked me to preach for him while he was gone on vacation. After I prayed, I believed that God wanted me to preach the Matt. 18 passage to the church. The Sunday before I preached though, BF preached that same passage. At first I thought, "I can't preach this because BF just preached it." Then I realized I had the responsibility to preach whatever God told me to preach. So I preached it. The Sunday after I preached was the beginning of the revival. What passage did the evangelist preach that Sunday morning? Matt. 18. A coincidence? I hardly think so. A church that's been around for 150 years can easily develop bitterness in relationships--even between wonderful people. Regardless if you've been wronged by somebody, you need to ask forgiveness from those people you've wronged. Let it start with you.