2005-08-11 - Forgive
Matt 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. (KJV)
This is a little word with a huge depth of meaning. In the dictionary, I found three definitions for the word "forgive": (1) To excuse for a fault or an offense; pardon; (2) To renounce anger or resentment against; (3) To absolve from payment of (a debt, for example). The idea of a cancelled financial debt, or a pardon are powerful. Through no action of our own, and that is a critical thought here, the debt, be it financial, criminal, or spiritual, is gone.
In this fragment of the Lord's Prayer, we are asking God to forgive us of our sins. This is a good thing, since I know I probably sin before my feet hit the floor most mornings. The more I know about the grace of God, the more I realize how badly I need it. And we have the assurance that Christ has paid for our sins and stands ready to forgive us if we come to Him with a humble heart.
The next phrase is interesting too. Some have taken it to be, if I forgive my debtors, I'm forgiven too. That doesn't quite ring true. It also is a good thing to forgive those who have sinned against us. But, if we can do anything in our own strength to earn forgiveness, then grace is no longer needed. Rather, this is an agreement that we now release those who are in debt to us from that debt. Keep in mind that holding something against someone is sin, which inhibits our prayers. Being unforgiving means that we are not humble, and in need of repentance. (Mark 11:24-26)
One last thought. Forgiving someone, or being forgiven, does not mean that the whatever happened, was right. This in no way validates that event. It simply means that it is no longer an issue between the two parties involved. I will no longer be angry with Patty because she got mad and poured soda on my head. It also does not mean that I am a doormat. My fictitious Patty may not pour soda on my head again and expect me to simply smile about it. It doesn't mean that the offender should not change or that I act like nothing was ever wrong. Patty should give up her soda pouring ways, and will probably be encouraged by my willingness to forgive - just as Jesus forgave me and I am encouraged by His forgiveness. This is obviously an over-simplification. But I think it illustrates the meaning.
The Apostle John, in his later years, was always exhorting those around him to love each other. When you love someone, it is easy to forgive. It becomes imperative between you that you work out your differences quickly. This kind of relationship, and acceptance of others with all their weaknesses and faults, is a huge step toward living humbly and really knowing forgiveness. I don't think I'm there yet. I don't know many who are, and they might tell me I'm wrong about them. The point is that we will probably never really arrive at that destination in this lifetime. But the journey toward that destination is the important thing.
Grace & Peace,