April 6, 2012: The Thirty-Ninth Day of Lent
April 6, 2012 § Leave a comment
“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” ~ Matthew 6.12 ~
Christ continues to instruct his disciples in the way of prayer. It helps us to remember the topics covered thus far by Jesus: relationship with the Father, submission to his will, and a request for needs to be met. After establishing a foundation of relationship and submission, requests can be made in the proper way. Also, building upon this foundation, prayer can address the matter of forgiveness as well.
Shelton points out that even though Matthew uses the Greek word for “debts” here, Luke’s account of this prayer contains the word “sins” instead. It may be that Luke’s phrasing lies a bit closer to what Christ intended in this teaching. (LinSNTC, pg. 167) This prayer for forgiveness recognizes several of the heavenly realities of the Beatitudes: recognition of one’s own spiritual bankruptcy, craving righteousness, and even mourning one’s own sin are all seen in the Beatitudes. By asking God for forgiveness, proper relationship is re-established.
Christ also emphasizes proper relationship with each other. The citizens of the Kingdom forgive each other just as God forgives. Shelton says: “The teaching of Jesus is heavy not only with the good news of God’s forgiveness but also with the call to his disciples to emulate the Father and forgive those who have offended them. If the program of the kingdom is forgiveness and restoration, then as ambassadors of the kingdom we are called to participate in the amnesty program even at our own expense.” (LinSNTC, pg. 167)
One troubling aspect of this verse is that the prayer asks that one’s sins be forgiven, since one has forgiven others of their sins. Would God ever deny forgiveness based upon whether or not one had forgiven offenses? We will explore this matter in more detail when we come to verses 14 and 15, but there does appear to be a relationship between forgiving and being forgiven. Christ makes the point clear: being in proper relationship with God means that one must be in proper relationship with others. The two cannot be separated. This presents a great challenge for those who choose to follow Christ.
Forgiveness stands at the top of the agenda of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Father desires to forgive all, and his ambassadors minister his forgiveness while receiving his forgiveness themselves. How do we live out this reality in prayer? Christ desires that we submit our hearts to him, so that he can enable us to forgive others and experience the forgiveness of the Father.
Lord Christ, I confess that I have sinned against you and against others. Others have offended me, but your love and mercy shown to me rises above all. Please help me to forgive them, and please forgive my sins, Lord. Restore proper relationship in my life. Amen.