(This is the sixth segment in the The Model Prayer series.)
“Forgive me.” How many times have I asked the Lord that? Bazillions!
Forgive. In Greek, the word used here primarily means to send forth or away. Or to remit, being completely cancelled, and to let go, give up.
The Greek word for debts means that which is legally due, as sin as a debt demanding atonement, something owed, or a fault.
As means even as, like as, according as, or in the same manner as.
Debtors is defined as one who owes anything to another (primarily in regard to money), one held by some obligation, bound to some duty, or one who has not yet made amends to one whom he has injured.
When a violation of God’s Word occurs, an atonement is necessary. In the Old Testament, God appointed sacrifices to be offered to atone for a person’s sins, but it had to be an offering of the heart.
God said to Judah, “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me [unless they are the offering of the heart]?” (Is. 1:11 Amp) Whatever the gift, the heart had to accompany it; otherwise, God rejected the gift, “Who wants your sacrifices when you have no sorrow for your sins?…I want nothing more to do with them.” (Is. 1:12a,13b TLB)
The OT sacrifice was merely a temporary substitution until Jesus offered the ultimate and eternal sacrifice, paying the penalty for all sins. As Jesus told the disciples at the Last Supper, the wine represented His “blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matt. 26:28 NKJV)
This is eternal debt cancellation. However, cancellation does not mean consequences for our wrong decisions no longer exist. Discipline still remains in place.
Do we ask others to forgive us when we hurt them, not kept our word, or sinned against them in some other way? What of those who have done or do the same to us? Are we ready to forgive them? God forgives us in the same manner that we forgive others. Have you ever asked the Lord if there’s anyone whom you have forgotten to forgive?
Peter once asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered him, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matt. 18:21-22 NIV)
Then, Jesus told the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in which the servant who had begged forgiveness of his large debt from his master turned around and demanded payment from his fellow servant. The fellow servant begged forgiveness for his small amount but was unsuccessful. The servant refused and had his fellow servant thrown in jail.
When the master heard of what the servant had done, he “turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.” (Matt. 18:34 NIV)
And here’s the part we like to ignore: Jesus finished the parable by saying, “This is how My heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matt. 18:35 NIV) Whoa!
Yes, some offenses against us are extremely difficult to forgive. Do you have any like that in your life? Are you willing to forgive? If not, have you asked the Lord to help you be willing to be willing to forgive? Do you want the Lord to forgive you? Then, you know what you have to do.
Besides asking forgiveness of our sins, we forget to seek forgiveness in one other area. Just as in the parable, we have financial debts, those things that are owed. As stewards of all the Lord allows in our lives, do we need to ask His forgiveness for mishandling it?
Though written to the Roman church, Paul’s words ring true for us today: “Pay all your debts except the debt of love for others – never finish paying that! For if you love them, you will be obeying all of God’s laws, fulfilling all His requirements.” (Rom. 13:8 TLB)
He also wrote to the Colossians, “Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” (Col. 3:12-13 NLT)
Lord, “Forgive us what we owe to You, as we have also forgiven those who owe anything to us.” (Phillips)