Our thoughts this week focus on a large, sensitive and important subject which has some big implications for our individual lives and for our fellowship worshiping together.
“forgive us our debts”
Jesus’ “Our Father” prayer is for us, who, as gathered together forgiven believers nonetheless need to regularly confess specific sins and seek forgiveness: the ongoing cleansing of thought, attitude, word and deed in our ongoing relationships and in our walk with our Heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Forgiveness is not only about our own wellbeing. It is also about the wellbeing and maturity of us as a fellowship, about our relationships with other churches, and within the wider world. All this requires us to be sensitive to the ongoing touch of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.
[A worshipful prayer I find helpful is from King David in Psalm 139: 23—24– “search me, O God, and know my heart, try me and know my anxious thoughts! see if there is any offensive (hurtful) way in me, and (continue to) lead me in the way everlasting”].
“… as we also have forgiven our debtors”
This is the hardest part because it requires, more often than not, action from us to say sorry, to seek reconciliation (if possible) and generally to humble ourselves before God and other people. Jesus said in Mark 11: 25:
“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses”.
We often live with un-forgivingness (sometimes without realising it), either in ourselves or toward ourselves from others. It is no easy matter, especially forgiving others “from the heart” which Jesus insists on if we are to receive forgiveness ourselves [see: Matthew 6: 14—15 and Matthew 18: 23—35]. Jesus knows that not dealing with issues of forgiveness may well have an adverse effect on ourselves and others in the fellowship, hindering the Lord’s work in and through us; which is perhaps why He shocked Peter (Matthew 18: 21—22 ) by saying “not 7 times but 70 x 7 times”. Who is able to cope with these requirements of Jesus? Truly no-one! Only as the Holy Spirit shows us these things or touches on hidden attitudes which need attended to, will we know of our need to humbly acknowledge and deal with forgiveness in our daily walk with the Lord.
It is easy to make excuses ‘how can I forgive someone who hates me?’ or worse, ‘that person doesn’t deserve forgiveness’ oops! What about Matthew 6: 12&15 as well as Ephesians 4: 32
“… be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you”. [Remember Matthew 26: 28 (communion) “This is my blood….” ].
This space is too small to deal with this vital issue in depth, but friends all of it takes time. Our Father deals with us slowly, as a process, within our relationship and walk with Him, and our relationships with others. Remember we have been forgiven, yet still require ongoing forgiveness from God: we need to forgive others and possibly need to receive forgiveness also. Our Father is making His children fit to be salt and light now and eventually to live with Him for eternity. Jesus Christ has made it all possible and calls us to follow Him (sometimes in hard places), in attitude, word and deed: To become more and more like Him.
May His grace, love and peace continue with us in our worship together as we humbly and honestly seek to fulfil the words we actually pray: “forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors”. Glory, honour and praise be to Him who is worthy to receive all of our worship and all of our hearts and lives.
[For deeper study I offer these limited texts and as always, please remember context. Genesis 3: 21; Leviticus 17: 11 (related text Hebrews 9: 22); Psalm 32: 1—5; Matthew 6: 12,14&15, 18: 21—35 and 26: 28; Mark 11: 24—25; Ephesians 4: 32; Colossians 3: 13; Hebrews 9: 11—14 and 1John 1: 5—10]