Friday, August 1, 2008

Matthew 6:12, 14-15 "Let It Go"

"Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." NIV
I have followed the Lord most of my life; raised in a pastor's home, hardly missed a Sunday service or Sunday school class growing up, attended a Christian university; a pastor's wife for 23 years and I just heard this verse about 10 years ago for the very first time. I've known the Lord's prayer since I was four, but never knew this verse on forgiveness followed it. And what a terrible hole in my education. Oh, I'm not blaming anyone but myself. Being an English major I learned long ago that you always read everything in context. But this is an aspect of praying and forgiving that I should never have missed and here's why. It comes with a curse.

I touched on this in a previous post discussing the difficulty of forgiving. But now I think we need to focus on the consequences of not forgiving. It is very clearly stated in verse 12 and verse 15 that our forgiveness from the Father will only go as far as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us. As I stated in my previous post, that may not be an external action, but an internal change of heart. If we are hanging on to the hurts of the past and not forgiving, we not only suffer from the pain continually eating away at us, dragging us down like an anchor attached to our legs, but also from God not forgiving us for the sins we commit. That's a price I'm not willing to pay.

But to forgive takes a humble heart. We must be willing to submit to the fact that even though I am the injured party, like my offender, I am merely a sinner saved by grace. I have no right to not extend forgiveness when forgiveness was extended to me on the cross. We are all cursed with a sinful nature and living in a world dominated by the enemy. I succumb to temptations just like everyone else. So how can I be so arrogant as to not forgive an offense. They need grace as much as I do.

Which takes us back to the beginning of the prayer in verse 9. I am a servant of the Most High and will submit all of my life to His will. If I am to forgive to be forgiven, then I will humble myself and surrender to His Lordship. Besides, it's a whole lot easier to surrender than to hang onto the past hurts. With my hands full of pain and hate, I'm not able to reach out to the future joys. Forgive me, Lord, like I've forgiven those who've hurt me.

Further Thoughts:
  1. What is the relationship between forgiving others and humility? Support with Scripture.
  2. Is forgiving a wrong committed against you dismissing the hurt it caused and justifying the offender? Why or why not?
  3. Compare and contrast forgiveness and revenge. See my July 28th post.
  4. Second only to Jesus, Joseph must be one of the most forgiving people that ever lived. His brothers sold him into slavery in a foreign country. Joseph suffered for years until God raised him to a position of honor. He had every reason to never forgive his brothers for what they had done to him. You can read Joseph's story in Genesis 37-50. But right now, read Genesis 50:15-21 for an amazing account of forgiveness.
  5. Jesus was treated in the most brutal way possible -- and as an innocent man. But what did He say while his battered body hung on the cross with nails piercing His hands and feet?Read Luke 23:34.
  6. Is there someone you need to forgive? Do so right now. Let go of the hurt, allow the Lord to heal you, and move forward in victory. There's a lot of living left to do.

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