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Forgive Us as We Forgive…

October 7, 2012

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…

What does this line mean?

We must have a humble heart to both seek forgiveness and forgive. Out of all the petitions listed in this prayer, Jesus focuses on this one in particular. Jesus, immediately after His instruction about how to pray, explains to His disciples in verses 14-15 the following: “For, if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” We are commanded in Scripture to be like God, to be conformed to the image of His Son, to forgive because He forgives, to be holy because He is holy. (Lev. 19:1) We live in a sinful world and we come in contact with sinners everyday. We are sinned against everyday: people steal from us, gossip about us, children disobey their parents, parents mistreat their children. How we deal with those sins against us, reveal a lot about our character and our relationship with Jesus. When you forgive others you are bearing witness that you have experienced for yourself the mercy of God. You are fulfilling the greatest commandment, loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, AND loving your neighbor as yourself. A modified golden rule: Do unto others, what you would have God do unto you.

We are not to take forgiveness for granted. God is interested in forgiving sin, so much so that he sent His only Son to pay the debt that man had and that we have toward God. For “All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Through Adam, sin entered into the world and placed us in the position of indebtedness to God. Adam mortgaged our lives for the temporary satisfaction of seeking knowledge and fulfillment outside of God’s commands. For centuries that mortgage accrued interest, and the debt increased. But God in His grace gave Christ as the “propitiation” payment, the satisfaction of that sin debt. “Jesus paid it all” as the song says, and in trusting in that work, God forgives our sins and places that sin, away from us, as far away as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12) We should remember this daily, and be obedient to ask that God continue to forgive us, and remind us to likewise continue to forgive others. If we fail to pray for forgiveness, we fail to acknowledge what God has done for us.

What does this line not mean?

In order to be saved, you must forgive the debts/trespasses of others. This may appear to contradict what is stated above, but this is a key point. You are saved through the blood of Christ, In Christ alone. There is one mediator between God and men, Jesus Christ, He is the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father apart from Him. If one confesses with their mouth and believes in their heart that Jesus is Lord, they will be saved. (Romans 10:9) Forgiveness is part of salvation, as is sanctification, regeneration, redemption etc. However, the forgiveness that we act out toward others, is a by-product of the forgiveness we have experienced. Just as we love others, because God first loved us. (I John 4:19) What this petition is saying is that we are to model for others the forgiveness we ourselves have experienced. If we fail to forgive others, if we are proud and hold onto resentment, then there is very little evidence that the Holy Spirit is in us. For “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness” surely then, it is kind and loving to forgive. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Gal 5:25) Our forgiveness of others is an evidence for, not the entirety of our salvation.

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