Perhaps one of the most striking aspects of Luke 11:4 is the qualification of the request “And forgive us our sins.” The New Living Translation adds, “as we forgive those who sin against us.” The Greek original could be translated more literally, “For we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us” (ESV).
Isn’t that something? Jesus teaches that as we ask our Heavenly Father for forgiveness, we should also confirm our practice of forgiving others. Of course, this assumes that we are in the practice of forgiving others, an assumption that may or may not be true for us. How could we pray in the way Jesus teaches us if we are unwilling to forgive? How could we ask God to forgive us if we hold grudges or become mired in the quicksand of resentment?
Jesus’ model prayer underscores the essential connection between receiving divine forgiveness and forgiving others. As we experience God’s gracious forgiveness, we are called and empowered to forgive those who have wronged us. If we choose to hoard the forgiveness granted to us by failing to forgive others, not only do we disobey the Lord’s teaching, but also we miss the full benefit of forgiveness. God’s purpose in forgiving us is that we might be reconciled to him and to each other. The experience of divine forgiveness enables us to do what otherwise is beyond our strength.
I have seen unforgiveness wreak havoc on individuals and their relationships. The failure to forgive can destroy marriages, families, business partnerships, friendships, and churches. Moreover, unforgiveness fills our hearts with bitterness, quenching our gratitude and flowing out of us as venomous anger.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How easy do you find it to forgive people who have wronged you? Do you hold back in forgiveness? Why? Could you honestly pray in the way Jesus teaches us, connecting your forgiveness of others with your request for God’s forgiveness? Are there people in your life right now whom you need to forgive? Will you?
PRAYER: Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
Heavenly Father, I must admit that I feel uneasy about this prayer. Yes, yes, I want you to forgive me. But there are times I forget to forgive others. I can fool myself into thinking that the offense against me is gone, but, in fact, it lurks in my heart, ready to lash out at others. Forgive me, Lord, for my unforgiveness. Help me to remember those who have wronged me so that I might forgive them.
I must confess that there are other times when I am aware of my unforgiveness and I don’t want to let go of it. I feel comfortable living behind the wall it builds between me and the one who hurt me. I like the sense of self-righteousness that puffs me up with pride. Honestly, I’d much rather stew in bitterness or spill out with gossip than offer the forgiveness you require of me. Forgive me, Lord, for my unforgiveness. Help me to choose to forgive even when it’s hard, even when I really don’t want to.
I pray in the name of Jesus, who calls me to forgive, who shows me how to forgive, and whose death enables me both to be forgiven and to forgive others. Amen.
Luke 6:27-36 (NIV)
This is where the rubber hits the road …….
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”