… as we forgive our debtors.
Matthew 6:12b (KJV)
Dear God, this isn’t groundbreaking theology, but it’s still worth noting: the key concept Jesus included in this prayer is represented by the word “as.” Because I think this word is so important, I doublechecked several translations (NIV, NAS, and NLT) and they all used the same word: as. I think my thoughts are in two directions as it pertains to this passage:
- What kind of forgiveness do you offer me that I am supposed to offer others? As I think about yours and my relationship, it occurs to me that you do expect something on my part. You expect humility. You expect repentance. Now, there are times when I don’t know that I’ve sinned and grieved you. But there are other times when I know I have sinned against you and others. There is a reason that the AA 12-step program includes making amends when it won’t do harm to the other person. But there is a step of repentance on my part before relationship with you can be whole. I can’t just walk obstinately doing what I want and then expect to be in relationship with you. The Prodigal Son was not in relationship with his father until he came to the end of himself and repented. And I’m not talking about heaven, hell, and what happens in the afterlife. I’m talking about right now. An important part of my daily relationship with you is humbling myself before you in relation to who you are and the things I’ve done wrong and then asking your forgiveness. Of course, you are quick to forgive me because you love me. So is that my model for the forgiveness I’m supposed to extend to others? That leads me to my next question.
- Where do I draw the line when it comes to releasing someone vs. staying in relationship with them? If I am to forgive 70 X 7, does that mean I should just continually take abuse and absorb the wrongs someone else does to me when they are either repentant but incapable of change (I think that’s the 70 X 7 one) as opposed to the person who simply does whatever they want regardless of how it impacts me?
I spent some time with a woman yesterday whose husband is a severe alcoholic. She has school-aged children and finally told him to leave a couple of weeks ago. He would promise to change but never would. Finally, for her own sanity she had to make a hard decision for her and her children.
As for me, I have some incredible anger right now towards loved ones who have repeatedly done the same thing to me over and over again for the last 20+ years. And they’ve never really asked forgiveness for any of it, but I’ve tried to keep showing mercy and grace. Now, however, this last offense has left me wondering if I made a mistake to not walk away 23 years ago. Have I been foolish to try to maintain relationship? Did it cost more than it should have?
Father, maybe I need to understand more of how you forgive me before I can understand how I am supposed to forgive others. I love others. I truly love the people who have wronged me. But if there is no humility–if there is no remorse–is it possible to be in relationship? It seems to me that the answer in my relationship with you is, no, if you have made me aware of my wrong and I do not repent then our relationship while I am on this side of heaven is impacted. So I am sorry. I’m sorry for the hurt I’ve caused you. I’m sorry for the hurt I’ve caused others. Please help me to be willing to examine my heart and my actions as I am confronted with any of these things so that I might be part of your kingdom coming to earth and your will being done on earth as it is in heaven.
In Jesus’s name I pray,