In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus presents an example of how to pray. Millions of us have memorized the prayer best known as “The Lord’s Prayer.” I wonder though, if we have lost something due to the familiarity of the words?
Beginning in the third sentence we encounter these thoughts:
“Give us this day our daily bread,”
which we all cheerfully accept and anticipate. Most who read these thoughts will eat today, tonight, tomorrow and on most days. We rejoice in receiving daily food, even if we sometimes take it for granted.
Those words however, are not the ones that give me pause, these do:
“and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
Hmmm, that’s a bit tougher than asking for and receiving our daily food. Some translations use the word sin, others use offenses, and many use debts. The Greek allows all of those in the meaning of the word.
The next sentence reads:
“And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil,”
and I wonder if this is tied into forgiveness more than we think? How much temptation and evil is birthed in the simmering cauldron of unforgiveness? How many murders, and envy, gossip, slander, anger and resentment is directly tied to not forgiving others for past hurts, wounds, offenses and sins against them?
In case you think I might be stretching this a bit, consider what else Jesus adds in Matthew 6:14-15 after revealing this model prayer:
For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
It is interesting that the only part of the Prayer that Jesus expands upon is the forgiveness part, or better stated, unforgiveness. There is a mystery to me regarding the forgiveness of sins and how all that is accomplished, but there is nothing hidden in these verses. Jesus’ blood paid the price for our sins, and of those who sin against us.
Later on in Matthew’s Gospel, we see the parable of the unforgiving servant. We know the story about the man who is forgiven millions and won’t let his fellow sinner off for a few pennies. You can read the full account in Matthew 18:21-35.
Just a couple of items to point out about those verses – they follow on the heels of Peter asking how many times must I forgive someone and they end with these chilling words from Jesus:
And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also My heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.
Wherever we may land on these verses and how they are walked out, forgiveness of those who have hurt, wronged, offended, or sinned against us, must be freely given as we have freely received, or our Heavenly Father will not be pleased. Think about it.