In HOPE 6.35                                  back to home                        David Timms

Ministry Resource

Mike Raleigh, an avid reader and pastor in Las Vegas, speaks highly of My Soul in Silence Waits: Meditations on Psalm 62 by Margaret Guenther. This 150-page book has been delightful and refreshing for Mike, and I plan to get a copy for myself. You may be interested, too. 

Hope Happenings

Saturday, December 2 at 7.00pm, the Hope International University Chorale and Aineo Christian Orchestra will present a musical performance entitled Emmanuel ... God Is With Us . The event will be held in the Pacific Auditorium and is open to everyone.  

Current Series

This series continues to explore the significance of the Lord's Prayer for our lives. Today's column is week six in the series. Just two weeks to go! 

Hope International University
Fullerton  CA  92831

Pray then in this way: "Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your Kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever. Amen." (Matthew 6.9-13)

Forgive Us

The Lord's Prayer challenges us with each phrase, but on the topic of forgiveness it seems to contradict a very basic biblical teaching: the unconditional love of God.

As we appeal to God for forgiveness, the Lord's Prayer claims that He forgives us when or because or in the same way that we have already forgiven others.  His forgiveness has a condition attached. Worse still - it's a pre-condition.

Paul Tournier writes: "So far as a human being is concerned, caught up in the drama of guilt, a God who does not forgive can no longer be regarded as a God who loves unconditionally; and a God who lays down conditions for His forgiveness does the same for His love."

I can forgive some folk and some offences relatively easily. But serious injuries and grievances take a while. And just when I think I've moved on, something triggers a response from me that shows I have not forgiven as fully as I thought.

My capacity to forgive others seems inconsistent and incomplete at best. Will God's forgiveness be the same for me? The thought is horrifying!

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

Is this really a pre-condition? Or does Christ use this opportunity to reaffirm that kingdom life flourishes when we both offer and receive forgiveness?

The hyperbole achieves its goal. It shocks us. How dare we beg for grace with no intention of extending the same. How impudent of us to plead for forgiveness while harboring bitterness and resentment against others.

Christ knows that guilt eats us from two directions. Our own guilt before God burdens us, but so does the relentless condemnation we cast on others - in our marriages, families, workplaces, churches, and neighborhoods. Both scenarios destroy us.

Later, Jesus would tell the parable of the servant forgiven a vast fortune who then beat up a small-time debtor of his own (see Matthew 18.23-35). The servant's presumptuous request "Have mercy on me!" rested on the sands of hypocrisy as he refused to have mercy on others. He wanted personal absolution without fostering a culture of grace, and the Kingdom has no place for such duplicity. 

In an earlier part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus urged His listeners: "If you are presenting your offering at the altar and remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering; first be reconciled to your brother and then come and present your offering" (Matt 5.23-24).

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

The Lord does not demand a pre-condition to His love. However, by means of the hyperbole (and the Sermon on the Mount is full of hyperbole, e.g. Matthew 5.29-30) He invites us into a culture and circle of forgiveness. This prayerful plea challenges our presumptuous attitudes and guides us to reconciled relationships.

May we nurture the culture of grace in our own lives.




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David Timms serves in the Graduate Ministry Department at Hope International University in Fullerton, California. "In HOPE", however, is not an official publication of the University and the views expressed are not necessarily those of the Administrators or Board of the institution. "In HOPE" has been a regular e-publication since January, 2001.