Matthew 6:9-13 Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.
FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS, AS WE FORGIVE OUR DEBTORS It is unfortunate that the word “debt” sounds exclusively monetary to our ears. We owe many things, with money only being one part of the whole. We owe an apology, for instance, when we have offended someone. We owe a Thank You when we have received a gift. We owe loyalty to our friends.
When Jesus teaches us to ask the Father to forgive our debts, he obviously does not mean we are asking God to remove from us all responsibility to pay what we owe. He means we are to ask God for the sin or error which put us in debt in the first place. Only some of our “debts” come from sin, so not all debt is in mind here. And much of our debt is removed when we apologize or restore what we have taken or made amends in some way. What remains is the sin against God, the sin by which we have withheld from God what we have owed him: all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We cannot make amends for that. We need his gracious forgiveness.
What is really striking here and most important is the next phrase: “as we have forgiven” the debts owed us by others. If I loan my friend $50 dollars, he doesn’t need my forgiveness. He just needs to repay the debt. But if he has been offensive and unjust to me, he cannot make up for that, cannot erase that. All he can do is sincerely ask my forgiveness. And here is the shocking lesson: God forgives us only to the degree that we forgive others.
I like to say that God assumes we live by the Golden Rule. He assumes we want to be treated the way we treat others. If we are not gracious, the Lord will not be gracious with us. If we are not forgiving, we will not be forgiven.
If you’ve turned to your Bible and looked up this passage, reading it in context, you know that after giving us this model prayer, Jesus comments on it to add emphasis. The only part that he emphasizes is forgiveness. This is very serious: The unforgiving are the unforgiven.