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Forgiveness is a miracle of love, grace and restoration.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
Matthew 6:12 NKJV
Our Father Who is in heaven, hallowed (kept holy) be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven (left, remitted, and let go of the debts, and have given up resentment against) our debtors. And lead (bring) us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. --Amplified Bible
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.Make me patient and sympathetic with the shortcomings of others, especially of those I love; and keep me sternly watchful only of my own. . . . Keep my eyes lifted to the highest, so that I may be humbled; and seeing the failures of others, be forgiving, because I know how much there is of which I need to be forgiven. --Walter Bowie
He who does not forgive another has broken the bridge over which he himself must pass. --Lord Herbert
Forgive, . . . As We Forgive
When God forgives, our slate is wiped clean. Then why are we so reluctant to do the same for others! I was in a Sunday School class one time and the teacher held up an 8x10" piece of copy paper. On it was one small blue dot, no bigger than a single letter on this page. The teacher asked what we saw, and of course we all saw the small blue dot. But the bigger question for that learning session was--why is it that when we look at someone's life we focus on the small blot and ignore the rest of the page which is clean? 90+% of a person's life may be good and positive, but if they have any negatives on their record, we remember their transgressions.
We hold up the person's worst deed as though it is the totality of their life, and fail with the same diligence to search out their finer qualities. If our Father in heaven treated us in a similar manner, there would be no hope for the world. Most of us probably wouldn't want God to forgive us the way we forgive each other. Yet every time we say the Lord's Prayer, we give God permission to do just that. We ask God to show mercy to the same extent that we are merciful, and forgive us in proportion as we have forgiven others!
What is Jesus saying? This is serious business with eternal consequences. The message is quite clear. The way we treat one another indicates the way we want God to treat us! Is this thought not enough to make us patient, kind and merciful toward everyone? Forgiveness embodies the life of God; resentment blocks its progress. Forgiveness shines like a precious gem in a world of imperfections; an unforgiving spirit is like sand in the machinery of life.
Transgressions, whether ours or someone else's, cause injury and pain. Sin destroys unity and generates strife and conflict. Unpaid debts and obligations, good intentions, broken promises, unfulfilled aspirations; it litters our landscape as far as the eye can see. We sometimes live in God's world as though there were no God at all. Caught in this tension between earth and heaven, we long for a way out.
Transgressions, sins, debts--those things we are not proud of and would be embarrassed if they were splashed across the front page of the local newspaper. While we may be able to hide them from public scrutiny, God knows the secrets of our heart. But there is good news. It's why we call Jesus our Savior. There is a way to be free from the weight of guilt and shame. When we surrender our sins to Jesus and ask for forgiveness, God clears out all that bad stuff and dresses us up in his righteousness. Using the ancient Hebrew imagery of the Old Testament, our debt is paid in full by the blood of the sacrificial Passover lamb, Jesus Christ our Lord. The slate is wiped clean; we begin anew.
In weakness we seek God's strength. When frightened we want God's companionship. But what do we do when we don't feel the need for God's forgiveness, when we think it's the other person who should repent and change? That's when we take a page from the prophet Isaiah. The more Isaiah gazed upon the glory and holiness of God, the more he realized how sinful he was! And the more he realized how sinful he was, the more ready he was to be lifted out of that maze and have God set his feet on a new path. His sad, cold heart was filled with the glow of God's mercy and grace and he exclaimed with delight, "Here I am, Lord, send me! I'll do whatever job you give me."
Which brings us back to our theme. The first and "ever after" job God has for us is to forgive. It's the prerequisite for everything else in the life of a disciple. Just as the body requires bread, so the soul needs forgiveness. Daily bread and daily pardon go hand in hand. Forgiving those who sin against us becomes regular, normal, habitual. Like a spring of refreshing water, forgiveness flows out across the land in a continuous stream, healing the stain of broken hearts and neglected relationships.
The Psalmist described the forgiveness of God like this: "Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!" If we want to experience forgiveness like that, here's the bargain: God will forgive each of us inasmuch as we forgive those who sin against us! Bitterness is a grave, but forgiveness bursts forth with the gladness of heaven.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: Describe someone you know who is a forgiving person, or someone who has treated you with loving kindness.
Debt is a failure to discharge an obligation. Trespassing is the unlawful use of another's property. Sin is missing the mark, like an archer who shoots the arrow but fails to hit the target. Discuss the differences in these three words. Which word do you prefer when praying this line of the Lord's Prayer?
How would you answer these questions? When have I failed in my obligations? How have I mistreated what belonged to another person? Why do I keep missing the mark?
There are sins of omission (what I failed to do) and sins of commission (what I did but should not have done). Give some examples of both types of sin.Is the sin of commission any worse than the sin of omission? Why or why not? Are you more guilty of one than the other? Explain your answer.
When we pray the Lord's Prayer, we confess not only our individual sins, but also the corporate sins of our community, church and society. If you were going to confess the sins of your congregation or the sins of your nation, what would you include in your prayer?
Even though confession takes a great weight off our backs, we are still reluctant to confess. Why is that? Do you believe that our refusal to forgive each other prevents us from receiving God's forgiveness?God forgives us knowing we will sin again. To what extent are you able to do the same for those who sin against you?
Are there any situations wherein you think Jesus would agree with you that leniency is neither appropriate nor helpful? What should you do in cases like that?
Read Psalms 32, entitled the joy of forgiveness. What effect did unconfessed sin have on the health of the Psalmist? What words does he use to describe the joy of being forgiven? In verse 9 he mentioned being like a mule. What does he mean by that?Share something you know regarding the healing powers of forgiveness. How does the theme of restoration fit into the process?