Yesterday I prayed the words that I have prayed nearly every Sunday for decades. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In some churches we have said “debts” and in others “sins” but the concept is still the same.
Either Jesus was teaching us to pray that as God keeps forgiving us we should keep forgiving others as in the same time or a continuous process. Or maybe He was suggesting that we ask God to forgive us in the same manner that we forgive others. I hope it’s not the latter.
Regardless of which of those interpretations you choose to believe Jesus intended, the principle is the same. We are expected to forgive and Jesus wanted us, whenever we prayed, to remember God’s example of forgiveness. I don’t think that He was suggesting that God was only going to be as good of a forgiver as we are to others, but he wanted us to tie those two things together.
In the parable of the two debtors in Luke seven Jesus drives this point home. After telling Peter that he was to forgive someone 490 times (70 times 7, but really meaning infinity), he told the story of a guy who owed his master millions of dollars. (for a cute story about one of my kids and a conversation we had in 2012 click here) The master forgives his debt and he walks away and walked directly to find a dude who owed him a thousand and had him thrown in prison. When the master found out, he had the servant thrown into prison saying, “Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?”
The implications of the parable are clear. God forgives us so we forgive our fellow servants. Period. God is merciful, we need to be merciful as well.
Who do you need to forgive today?