“And forgive us our debts, even as we forgive our debtors.”
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
(Matthew 6:12, KJV)
Though the language of this petition is financial language, in the context, Jesus is using this language to reflect that which we owe to others as a result of sin (which is why some people say “transgressions” here—though I have yet to find a translation of the Bible that reads “transgressions” and not debits). This is the only petition of the prayer that our Lord actually goes back to and explains (see Matthew 6:14-15) and when he explains the petition, he does so in terms of our sins.
This, indeed, is our great spiritual need—to be forgiven. Christ begins the list of petitions for our needs by addressing our physical needs and now he moves to the spiritual—the mental will come next. But also note, that while this is our great need, this is also the only petition of this prayer that is qualified by something that we must do—that is to forgive.
This is heavy stuff. What we are praying to God is that he should forgive us in the same way we forgive others. If we withhold forgiveness, we are telling him that he should withhold it from us as well. This is a terribly high standard to have before us if we are entirely honest. Certainly, there are some people who it is relatively easy to forgive, but then again, there are others who have hurt us so badly and so deeply that forgiveness seems impossible—yet loved ones, with God, all things, all things are possible.
You who have been forgiven so much in the eyes of God, how can you fail to forgive others? We owe a debit to God for our sin that we could never even begin to repay, yet Christ chose to pay it on our behalf—and pay it he did, in his own blood. No wickedness that another man can do to you, no matter how hurtful and severe, can come close to the wickedness of your sin in the eyes of a Holy God. Even the angels shield their eyes in God’s presence. Yet for you, believer, God has not withheld his forgiveness—how is it that you can withhold forgiveness from others?
Jesus never ceases to stretch us as we grow in faith, and to take seriously the words of this prayer, we are forced to grow beyond ourselves. The reality is that it is impossible for us to forgive some people on our own strength—the hurt is just too deep and it is not in our heart to do so. That is why we ask God to change our hearts and conform them to his will—that we may forgive even where it seems impossible to do so. Beloved, will you pray that God will enable you to forgive others as he has forgiven you?