We pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors [in the NIV, NSRV, KJV versions of the Bible]. It is not just debts, but, as other translations suggest, it’s our trespasses or sins, any way in which we disregard the person before us for our own gain. We may owe money to someone, or time, or loyalty, or respect, or apology for what we have done to them; or someone may owe us the same things. No matter, we are to forgive them, as we are forgiven by God who knows us so well; He knows just what we think and what we do.
This echoes the Biblical teaching that every seven years—we are to forgive the debts owed to us, and return to a normal relationship of two fellow human beings made in God’s image, rather than owing those debts forever [Deuteronomy 15]. And the same with the debts we owe—every seven years they are to be forgiven. [Apparently, this forgiveness that God commanded was never practiced in the Old Testament].
The most important word in this line of the Lord’s prayer is FORGIVE. We are asking the Forgiver of human beings to forgive us no matter what we have done that does not conform with His laws, His Commandments. And it is not just the “letter of the law” sins that we commit that need to be forgiven, but the “spirit of the law” sins as well. It’s not just our outer behavior that is called for here, but also the judgments, the angers, the fears, the dismissals of someone else’s needs, the prejudices—anywhere we do not conform to the laws and the all-embracing spirit of love in those laws as taught by Jesus.
So, Jesus taught that the 6th Commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Murder” means this in the Spirit of the Law: do not be angry with your brother or sister, do not judge them [Matthew 5, 7]. In dealing with your enemy, He offered this: Do not hate your enemy, because even God loves and forgives those who act against His laws [Matthew 5: 43-46]. He makes His sun to shine on them, His rain to fall on them. We are to forgive others as just God has forgiven us.
Then, there’s the passage in Matthew 7:3-5 about seeing the sawdust in another’s eye and ignoring the plank in your own. Jesus is highlighting our propensity to project our sin onto another and then to rail against that person, all the while ignoring our own sin. The Bible makes it clear in many passages that no man is perfect, no man is above sin. So Jesus is asking us to embrace our fellow human beings and ourselves, no matter the sins they or we have committed. It is not our job to call out others for their sins; it is our job to love them and to forgive them as God loves and forgives us and them. It is God’s love expressed by us that converts another to His ways.
Another sin that we often gloss over is the one of calling attention to ourselves for all our “goodness” and forgetting about all our sinfulness. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount is highlighting those(in this case the Pharisees) who look good on the outside but are full of sin on the inside. He calls out those who pray in public [Matthew 6:5-8], those who want their good deeds seen, those who show off their fasting [Matthew 6:16-18] the ‘false prophets and disciples, and the ‘foolish builders’ [Matthew 7:15-29].
We are called to love, to forgive, to be wholly attentive to God and His Commandments, to follow Jesus through the Indwelling Spirit of God—to be God’s love and forgiveness in the world to all whom we meet. Our callings come in many different ways, depending on what will fulfill each of us, but the objective is the same—to love and to forgive ourselves and others. To do this we have to be constantly attentive to the Lord and all He asks of us and to be laying our sins on His altar, so that He can heal us of them. Then and only then can we be love and forgiveness in the world. We need to always remember that it is far easier to call out someone else’s sins than it is to admit our own. So, let us live in the truth about ourselves, and in laying that truth on His altar, we can be healed and transformed to live the life that God created for each of us. For Jesus said, “The truth shall set you free” [John 8:32].
Questions to ponder over the week: How do I show my love and forgiveness to another person? Am I able to love and forgive myself for all the wrongs I have committed? Can I actually feel God’s love? What else that I have done or was done to me is unforgiven and comes between me and God?
Blessing for the week: May we be loving and forgiving people to others and to ourselves. May we carry God’s Spirit of love and forgiveness everywhere we go, to everyone we meet. May we embody His Spirit always.
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