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
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
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."
this really a pre-condition?
Or does Christ use this opportunity to reaffirm
that kingdom life flourishes when we both offer and
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
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
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.
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
"Forgive us our debts as we have forgiven
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
May we nurture the
culture of grace
in our own lives.
In HOPE -