I have mentioned in another article on the Lord’s Prayer our need for daily prayer, that the Lord’s prayer was crafted to be the framework for our daily prayer. And as much as we are in need of daily bread we are in need of daily forgiveness. Not only do we need to receive forgiveness daily, but we also need to forgive others daily. We confess that we sin daily, that each day we have not loved the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. And guess what, the people around us give us more than enough opportunities to offer forgiveness because people sin against us every day.
The Lord uses the word “debt” to communicate the concept that as we sin against God and each other we mound up debts, debts against God, and debts against my friends and neighbors.
Who sinned against you? Put another way, whose debt do you need to forgive? I almost don’t have to let the question out of my mouth before you can begin listing the people who have wronged you. Within moments as you begin listing off the sins committed against you it is so easy to slip into a sort of sin rage as we list off the sin debts and the outrage. “I can’t believe they did that to me! They said what! How could they even think that about me!” Over and over again we accuse the people who have sinned against us. And God wants us to forgive them?!
It’s like the Lord kinda slipped this one in. The Lord’s Prayer is going great, we are praying for God’s kingdom to come, we are asking God’s will to be done and asking for daily bread, we request forgiveness every day and then WHAM! What?! God just kinda slips this “as we forgive our debtors” into our daily prayer like my mom used to put carrots in our spaghetti sauce. It’s true, my mom in her efforts to get us kids to eat our veggies would slip veggies into otherwise amazing food. Mom, there is no need to ruin a perfectly good marinara with carrots. She would grate up carrots and slip them into the spaghetti sauce, I could tell, we could all tell there were carrots in the sauce I love my mom and her efforts to get me to eat something other than hot dogs. Jesus slips in this little phrase, “as we forgive our debtors” and then keeps going with the prayer is just like mom slipping veggies into our spaghetti. I don’t want carrots in my spaghetti and deep down I don’t want to forgive the people who have sinned against me. God kinda slipped this one in because He knows we need to forgive the people who have sinned against us.
That’s the truth. We don’t want to forgive our debtors, we want to be like credit card companies.. We want to give people some amazing introductory offer and then slam them with interest so high they can never pay off their debt in their lifetime. And you know, people can’t pay their debt. She can’t take back what she said to me. He can’t take back what he did to me. And even as I write this I can almost hear people saying, “But you don’t know what they did to me! You don’t know what they said to me! You don’t know how big their debt is, I can’t forgive them.” And that’s true for us too, we can’t pay our debts. We can’t pay for our sins. We can’t take back what we said. We can’t undo what we have done.
So what do we do if we can’t pay our sin debts? “We forgive our debtors.” There is nothing we can do to pay back our friends and neighbors we have sinned against, the only way we can wipe the slate clean with each other is to forgive the debts we have against one another.
As if to emphasize that Jesus was serious about this whole “as we forgive our debtors” thing, the verses directly following the Lord’s Prayer say; “For if you forgive others their trespasses (debts), your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses (debts), neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (debts).”
Apparently forgiving one another is important to God, so important that he starts the forgiving in the first place. God has forgiven us our trespasses in Christ Jesus and it is his grace that begins the transformation process making us into little forgivers. Not unlike God’s love in which he first loved us and as a result we are to love one another, God first forgives us our debts and we are to forgive our debtors. God is transforming our hearts through the power of forgiveness creating forgivers who forgive each other.
“Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:12-13)
As you receive the forgiveness that God has given you by grace through faith you are being transformed into people who forgive. May we forgive as we have been forgiven.