The Lord’s Prayer (vs 12)

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. (vs 12)

Debts, here, is rightly translated as “sins”. Yet “debts” is the right word. Jesus was talking to Jewish people and before Jesus was the Sacrifice there was a debt owed to God for these sins. The payment owed was punishment. Every Jew knew this which is why they were so careful to observe the Temple sacrifices.

While the Jews sacrificed daily and annually in the Temple so as to be forgiven, we know now that there is no way that we can ever make up for our sins; or our Sin. When we pray “Father forgive us our sins” we are asking that the Blood of Jesus be applied toward the debt that we owe. Jesus made the payment, once and for all, for everyone’s Sin and all we have to do is ask and God is faithful to forgive us. (1John 1:9)

Jesus also said that we are to forgive our debtors. Again, this is talking about sins. In this case about people who have done us wrong. It’s easy for me to ask God to forgive me. I know that I am a sinner. The apostle Paul claimed that he was the “chief of sinners” in 1Timothy 1:15. I’m not trying to contradict Scripture, but often I feel that I hold that place myself. I know that I have an accumulation of debts that would be owed if not for His forgiveness. It is also easy for me to want to exact justice from anyone who wrongs me or my family. And this is wrong. It is yet another debt that I must ask to be forgiven. Because we are to let these things go and let God deal with them.

The Bible has thirty-three Vengeance is mine, says the Lord that specifically tell us that it God’s job to repay people, not ours. I have linked to where you can look up these verses if you choose.  We are to turn the other cheek rather than insisting on punishment. The prayer that we are studying also says that we are to ask that God forgive us as we forgive others! This implies that if we don’t forgive than He won’t forgive. I tried looking this up and scholars disagree on this. Having said that I still want to do what Jesus asks us to do. We know that He wants us to forgive, so I try. And yes, it’s hard. So let me suggest that you also pray for the grace (strength) to forgive.

© 2021 Tim Lehmann. All rights reserved.

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The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness as “to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offense or debt”.  As Christians we are familiar with the forgiveness that God extends to us because of the death of Jesus on the cross.  Without that forgiveness we would not be able to escape judgment.

Divine forgiveness

Divine forgiveness sets the pattern for our forgiving others. Jesus said in His famous model prayer that we are to ask for forgiveness even as we forgive others (Matthew 6.12).  This was a part of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount and has become a treasured teaching of the church. Interestingly enough, this is not the only time Jesus gave this particular model of prayer to His disciples. In Luke 11: 1 “one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray as John taught his disciples.’”  Jesus’ response was almost identical to what He taught in the Sermon on the Mount.

Speaking of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talked about forgiveness in that message:

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. (Matthew 5:7) Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)

He talked about forgiveness on several other occasions as well.

And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. (Mark 11:25) But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. (Luke 6:27-29) Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. (Luke 6:36) Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: (Luke 6:37)

Of course the most famous one of all is when Jesus was hanging on the cross. He had the power to obliterate all of His tormenters and the authority to call legions of angelic armies, yet He said, “Father, forgive them, because they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23.34).

Jesus was all about forgiveness. He wanted us to be forgiving people. He still wants us to be forgiving people. So what, exactly, does it mean to forgive someone? We hear the term “forgive and forget” a lot. That sounds great, but we are human. Sometimes it is impossible to forget. Especially if the hurt is a deep personal hurt. Does that mean that Jesus has asked us to do the impossible?

 Human forgiveness

Jesus would not do that. He knows our limitations. He lived in a human body. Remember our definition of forgiveness is “to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offense or debt”.  This does not say anything about forgetting. A friend of mine some time ago defined forgiveness by saying that forgiving is the act of remembering to forget. Oddly worded, but it makes sense. We are going to remember an offense. Not only is it is human nature, but Satan is called our “accuser” for a reason. He is very good at reminding us of the things we want to forget.

Another friend once described forgiveness with a little more detail. He said that when we forgive someone we agree never to bring the offense up to that person again, never to tell anyone else about it and when Satan reminds us that we will consciously think of other things, such as scriptures that talk about how Jesus forgave us.

It is not an easy thing to forgive those who have hurt you. And some hurts are worse than others. Some people think that their pain is beyond forgiveness, but it’s not. Jesus would not tell us to do this if it were not possible. Maybe it will take the strength of Jesus Christ for us to forgive, but we have that strength available to us. The apostle Paul said that he could do everything that he needed to so through Jesus (Philippians 4.13). We too, as believers, have this power within us. It’s not magical and it’s not some hocus pocus stage trick. It’s the power of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit that indwells Christians the moment they believe.

Forgiveness is possible.  Forgiveness for you if you believe in Jesus died for your sins and rose again to gain victory for you over sin and death; and forgiveness for those who have sinned against you.

Even through this He said "Father, forgive them."