This is one of the hardest passages in scripture for many people to deal with. Jesus teaches us to pray,
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:12-15)
Very strong words, and ones that Jesus will expand upon in other passages.
But let’s start with the prayer. “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
Many people pray this so often, that they don’t think about what they’re saying. But imagine praying this. “I’m really angry at my sister. She said something really hurtful, and I can never forgive her. So Lord, please, please, in the same way that I refuse to forgive my sister, don’t forgive any of my sins either.”
That’s essentially what you’re praying when you pray the Lord’s prayer. You’re saying, “God, inasmuch as I forgive others, forgive me. But if I don’t forgive others, please don’t forgive me. Inasmuch as I pour out unforgiveness and ‘ungrace’ in the life of those around me, pour out your unforgiveness and ‘ungrace’ in my life.”
In God’s eyes, forgiveness is not an option. You cannot hold on to unforgiveness in your life and expect God’s grace and mercy in yours. Why? Because God has forgiven you though you didn’t deserve it, and he paid a massive price in order to do it. It cost him the life of his Son. You could do nothing to earn his forgiveness. You could do nothing to ‘pay back God’ for all the wrongs that you have done. And yet he extended his mercy to you.
Since God did that for us, how can we possibly withhold forgiveness and mercy from others?
To withhold forgiveness from others means that you truly don’t understand God’s forgiveness in your life. It’s to downplay your own sin and to say, “My sin wasn’t so bad; that’s why God could forgive me.”
Your sin was bad enough to separate you from God for all eternity in hell. Your sin was so bad, that it cost Jesus his life on the cross. How then can you say, “My sin wasn’t so bad?”
If you cannot forgive others their sins, then quite simply, you are taking your own sin too lightly. No Christian who has a strong sense of just how bad his sin is, and how much God has forgiven them can possibly withhold forgiveness from another.
Two things to meditate on. First, how seriously do you take sin in your life? Do you realize that it was and is serious enough to send you to hell? Second, if God forgave you for such serious offenses, how can you not forgive those who have committed serious offenses against you?
Is it easy? No. Depending on the level of hurt you experienced, it’s difficult, if not impossible…in your own strength. But the same mercy and grace that God poured in your life so that you could be forgiven is the same mercy and grace that he will pour in your life so that you can forgive others…if you’re willing to be changed. Are you? It starts with a prayer.
Lord, I’ve been hurt, and right now, I don’t even have the desire to forgive. But you forgave me though I didn’t deserve it, and you paid a great price so that I could. Help me to understand that more. Let it sink into my heart and my mind. And give me the desire to forgive. Change me. In Jesus name, amen.