The Lord’s Prayer: Debt

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. . . . 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 your sins.” (Matthew 6:12, 14-15)

This line from Jesus’ model prayer is such a head-spinning contradiction to what many of us know as the gospel. We’re saved by faith, right? Not of ourselves? How can Jesus say the Father will not forgive us if we don’t forgive others?

Theologians suggest it might have to do with the fact that Jesus said this before he had died for all of our sins (including the sin of unforgiveness) on the cross. Others say the statement has to do with a break in our fellowship with God here on earth is we refuse to forgive those who hurt us – not an eternal separation. It’s an important question.

A more important one: If we understand that because of Jesus, God has forgiven our unpayable debt of sin to the Father – an amount so staggering we can’t even imagine the horror of it – how could any one of us have the arrogance not to forgive another human being for anything, at all? Forgiven people should be forgiving people. Period.

Think: Jesus told a parable about a much-forgiven, unforgiving servant. Which character are you in that story? What can you do about it?

Pray: Ask God to so overwhelm you with an understanding of his forgiving grace that any grudge you’ve got against someone else just feels ridiculous to you.

Do: Use Wikipedia or something to look up the current American national debt. Then call your local library to ask what they charge for an overdue book for a week. Compare the two and think about the difference between what you owed God for your sin and what anyone on earth could possibly owe you.