Did you ever wonder what the part in the Lord’s Prayer that says “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” means? I had always filed that one under “Theological Mysteries Too Deep for Me to Understand.” Doesn’t God assure us ALL of our sins are forgiven because of Jesus’ death on the cross? This seems to imply that He will only forgive as I forgive and I’m human. If someone has done something really awful to me and I’m struggling to forgive them, does that mean God will not forgive some of my sins?
I wasn’t going to take any chances with this and decided that forgiveness was to be my way of life. I have some pretty bad sin in my life – bad. I have spent the majority of my life serving myself at great cost to others. But I claimed God’s promise that He forgives me for everything I’ve done as long as I am sincerely sorry and turn away from those things. There is a lot of sin that a just, righteous God had to wipe from this sinner’s slate, and if He’s willing to do that for me, I will forgive whatever somebody has done to me. Some wrongs are tougher than others and I often find myself struggling to stay at the proper level of forgiveness, but rather than dwell on what someone has done, I shift my focus to their need for God, remembering the time in my life when sin defined my life. I concentrate on praying for them and for me. Focusing on forgiveness and prayer keeps my thoughts away from what they have done. God’s gift to me is a forgiving heart, which I feel very blessed to have. Even with that, I have found it to be consistently and profoundly true that forgiveness may not do anything for the other person but it has set me free: so much less to fret about and stew over.
So, despite not fully understanding what this part of the Lord’s Prayer means, I had it covered by my decision to just forgive. Then a few weeks ago I was listening to Alistair Begg on the radio as he explained this passage. Seems I’ve been taking the line too literally – no surprise there. According to Pastor Begg, as sincere followers of Christ, our goal must be to forgive everyone of everything (forgive us as we forgive others) because that’s how God forgives those who accept His gift of salvation. If we’re unable to do that, then we haven’t fully realized how detestable sin is to God; we haven’t acknowledged how abhorrent our sin is to Him, nor how great His gift of forgiveness is. Once we fully understand the magnitude of God’s grace and mercy we will be able to forgive seventy times seven times. It’s something we will work on as long as we walk on the earth, but it is to be our goal. To choose not to forgive someone and stick to that decision is a clear indicator that we haven’t grasped how wretched we are without Jesus.
Psalm 51: 3, 4 – “ For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned,”
As humans we rate sin – murder is worse than a lie, lying is worse than stealing my pen from work, stealing my pen from work is worse than using God’s name in vain. But whatever you consider the smallest sin separates you from God. We must look at sin from God’s viewpoint, not our own. In His eyes, no matter how “small” the sin, the object of His great love – YOU – are separated from Him. That grieves God.
Mark 5:34: “And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”
Grace is relatively easy to understand intellectually. Jesus paid our debt and God no longer holds us accountable for any of our sins – not a single one. In my mind I understand that. But truly comprehending how great His mercy is is extremely difficult. If I have spent my entire life repeatedly committing the sin I think is the absolute worst one, but right before I die I sincerely accept Jesus as my Savior, God forgives me. He said He would and I expect Him to do that. And He expects me to forgive everyone of everything without keeping record of the offenses. Too much to ask from a human being? Yep. But I can do it because His Spirit dwells in me and I call on His power to get me to the place He expects me to be. I can’t just consider forgiveness; I can’t reason through a situation to determine if I will or won’t forgive; I certainly can’t make a decision about forgiving someone based on worldly rationale because the world will tell me I certainly do not have to forgive everyone of everything all the time. From a worldly perspective I cannot accept that someone like Jeffrey Dahmer could be forgiven. But God clearly tells me otherwise. The world rails at the thought of a child molester being forgiven. But God will forgive anyone that is clothed in Jesus’ righteousness. That’s the magnitude of His forgiveness that I have to understand. And if I cannot understand it, I simply must accept it and trust Him in that.
As a Christian I am held to a very high standard. That standard is not another human being – my standard is Jesus. God’s work in me is conforming me to His image, not to the image of the “goodest” person I know. When forgiveness is hard, I remind myself that, had I done something as horrible as Mr. Dahmer, the moment I accepted Christ’s death as payment for my sins, I would have been forgiven. That’s God’s promise. Learning to forgive is part of our sanctification – part of becoming more like Christ. We must constantly be working on it. If there’s someone you haven’t forgiven because you feel justified that what they did was so bad you need not forgive them; perhaps someone keeps hurting you time and time again and you have stopped even considering the need to forgive them, you can know you haven’t fully grasped how abhorrent your sin is and how great God’s forgiveness is.
Luke 11:3, 4 – “Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.”
God’s forgiveness is not conditional. This statement in our Lord’s Prayer is a reminder of what God has set as our goal. If there are still people in our lives we are struggling to forgive, we can know we haven’t fully grasped the magnitude of what God has done for us. We haven’t fully realized how wretched we are without Christ.