In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus offered a challenging prayer point:
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. -Matt. 6:12
This petition is very unique compared to the others. This request for pardon comes with a distinct stipulation: forgive us as we have forgiven others.
We understand that we need forgiveness. None of us are righteous (Rom. 3:10). All have sinned against God (Rom. 3:23), and this former way of life caused us to be spiritually deceased (Eph. 2:1) since the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).
We are in need of a judicial forgiveness from God. It is a once for all pardon that allows us to be justified before his eyes and receive salvation (Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:8; Gal. 2:16). Once we have that type of forgiveness, we never need to be forgiven again. Our salvation is as secure as the hands that hold it (John 10:28).
When Jesus died upon the cross, how many of your sins were in the future?
It is a powerful reality to acknowledge that all of your sins were in the future. That means that knows about all of your sins – past, present, and future and he still chose to die for you!
Why, then, do you believe that we ask God to forgive us our sins regularly if he has already forgiven them once and for all?
In addition to a judicial forgiveness that we need, there is also a relational forgiveness that we need. When spouses disagree, it does not change the status of their relationship but it does change the fellowship of their relationship.
If you have received the gospel (John 1:12-13) and God has made you a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), you are not in need of judicial forgiveness every time you sin. You are in need of relational forgiveness though. The penitent heart that you present before God acknowledges that you have sinned and you are sorry about what you have done (Ps. 51:3-4).
Do I Really Want to Pray This?
With that frame of understanding, answer this question:
Do I really want to pray that God would show me the kind of grace that I have shown others?
Do I really want to pray that God would forgive my debts in the same way that I have forgiven others?
Oftentimes, we characterize forgiveness like this:
- “Well, I can forgive but I can’t forget.”
- “I forgive them but I just don’t want to be around them.”
- “Do I have to let the person know that I have forgiven them?”
Take a look back over those statements.
Would you want Jesus to use that approach in the manner with which he forgives you?
Is there anyone that you need to forgive? The name probably just popped into your mind even as you try to remove it quickly from your subconscious. The reality is this: Jesus taught us to ask God to forgive us in the same manner that we forgive others. Instead of trying to rationalize our situation or debate the obvious, maybe we should simply get to work on who we need to forgive.