The Prayer Part 5: “…as we forgive our debtors.”

Last week we looked at the first part of the Lord’s prayer where Jesus teaches us to ask for forgiveness on a daily basis. Just like asking for “daily bread,” we must seek God’s mercies new each morning.

“Forgive us our debts…” Matthew 6:12a (ESV)

Yet this isn’t where the prayer for forgiveness ends, though most of us wish it did. Jesus takes the issue of forgiveness to a deeper level. Here, Jesus seeks to mettle in our lives, and when He does this, it can become quite uncomfortable. He continues with the petition for forgiveness in this way.

“…as we have also forgiven those our debtors.” Matthew 6: 12b (ESV)

or

“Forgive our sins as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” (NIV)

Jesus’ model prayer is not just about us and God, but it is seeking to bring us into a right relationship with both God and people. This is what it means to “Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself, most of us have no problem accepting grace for ourselves, hoping that our darkest moments have been cast into a sea of forgetfulness, but we are less excited to extend that grace to others, especially ones who’ve done us wrong.

Jesus not only wants us to long to see the worst of sinners receive His mercy, but he wants us to actively work to make that happen. Jesus teaches us that if we want God’s grace, we have to extend it ourselves. C.S. Lewis put it this way in “The Weight of Glory:”

“We believe that God forgives us our sins; but also that He will not do so unless we forgive other people their sins against us. There is no doubt about the second part of this statement. The Lord’s Prayer; it was emphatically stated by our Lord. If you don’t forgive you will not be forgiven. No part of His teaching is clearer, and there are no exceptions to it. He doesn’t say that we are to forgive other people’s sins provided they are not too frightful, or provided there are extenuating circumstances, or anything of that sort. We are to forgive them all, however spiteful, however mean, however often they are repeated. If we don’t we shall be forgiven none of our own.”

This is heavy stuff, we want so badly not to actually work out what Jesus is saying here, but after the ending, we typically sing or pray of the Lords prayer, Jesus continues by confirming the first statement:

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV)

That part of the prayer doesn’t flow as well, so we don’t often quote it with the rest, but here Jesus is making our forgiveness contingent on us offering others forgiveness. Under the New Testament covenant, we are not bound to the Old Testament Mosaic Law, our salvation rests in what Christ has done for us, not on what we’ve done, but here Jesus makes it simple that if we are seeking something for ourselves that we are unwilling to offer to others, we don’t get it either. This part of the prayer demands our attention.

Comic writer Stan Lee penned an iconic line in a 1962 Spiderman book. “With Great power, there must also come great responsibility.” This tagline has its roots in the very words of Jesus.

“Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required…” Luke 12:48 (ESV)

This is why Jesus can make the statement that all of the Law and The Prophets can be boiled down to “Loving God and loving others. (Matthew 22:40)” If we do those two things the way he intends, we will receive what we need from Him. Before he taught them this prayer, Jesus had just instructed His followers about this kind of love. He showed them that reconciliation with others goes hand in hand with our relationship to God. He even told them this:

“If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. FIRST, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24 (ESV)

Jesus had all of this in mind when He taught us this portion of the prayer. He knew it would not only draw us closer to God each day by asking forgiveness but would also bring our own unforgiveness and bitterness to the surface. Jesus seeks to restore us both to God and to each other. These two things are one in the same.

So each day as we pray, I encourage you to lay out your weakness to God in prayer. Don’t just ask for forgiveness in a generic sense, but dig in and let God heal you anew each day. Let Him lead you to a life of forgiveness towards others so He can heal both your wombs and those who you have wronged or those that have wronged you. Never forget that when we look at the amount of debt that Jesus has paid for us that it will be a daily reminder of how great a salvation Jesus bought for us. Let us seek to pray more for these things than any amount of earthly bread.

Grace and Peace to You.

Read the next part here: The Prayer Part 6: Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

 

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