Read Matthew 6:9-15.
He was talking about prayer. They asked for it (if you look in Luke 11), so they should have expected it to stretch them. Everything else that Jesus told them surely did.
Most of the short prayer seemed pretty cut and dry:
- Give praise to God.
- Ask for his will to be done.
- Ask for daily provision.
- Forgive our debt of sin.
- Don’t lead us into temptation.
- And deliver us from the evil one.
Wait a minute, something is missing. He said, Forgive us our debt of sin as we forgive those who sin against us. The disciples should have known that if there was a condition, he was going to talk more about it…and he did.
Jesus shared that entire model for prayer without commentary except that one part about sins. He must have known it would be a sticky point for those who chose to follow him, because he went on to say,
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 you.
I thought Jesus died on the cross for my sins. When I confessed my sinfulness before him and trusted in him as Lord and Savior, wasn’t that enough? Why does my sin have to be tied to someone else’s?
What if the debt of sin is too great for me to forgive? I’m not Jesus; how can I forgive like he does? He alone is capable of carrying the debt of the world’s sins.
Wait, Jesus is not asking his disciples to pay the price for another’s sins; he’s just telling them to forgive them. Let it go. Don’t count it against them.
My forgiveness of another’s sin does not save them, but it clears the way for me to remain in good standing with the One who saved me. Jesus is telling his disciples–you and me included–to keep our accounts clear.
What happens when you write too many checks on your account? You go in the red–in debt. As long as you’re in debt, you’re struggling and having to work harder to get it back in the black. It’s the same with relationships. When wrongs are not forgiven, the relationship goes south, gets sour. It doesn’t seem that anything can restore the good feelings you originally had toward the person who wronged you. Jesus gives us the solution–forgiveness.
This is not the world’s version of forgiveness, which forgives but doesn’t forget. This is God’s standard. Remember he throws our sin as far as the east is from the west. He forgives. He forgets. That’s the truest form of forgiveness that leads to restoration and reconciliation.
But back to my dilemma: What if the debt is too great? That’s when he tells me to do some introspection about my own state of sin when I met Jesus. My sin was so great that I deserved eternal hell, yet, he who had no sin gave himself on the cross that I might know forgiveness and salvation. He paid the ultimate price for my sin, for the world’s sin. Can I not forgive one thing another has done against me?
In Christ I can.
So, what does this hard saying teach me? It tells me I need to get out my accounting books and check the bottom line. Am in in the red in my relationships with others? Are there some debts that need wiping out, so that I can get my heavenly account adjusted?
I’m ready to get debt free. What about you?