forgiveness

“And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us

Many of us pray these words on a regular basis in our churches. But I wonder how seriously we take this. Yes I’m sure we are all serious about wanting our sins to be forgiven, but how ready are we to forgive the sins of others?

This has struck me in a big way this week, as I watch a friend in a situation where he is showing forgiveness in circumstances some would say are unforgivable. And yet he responds, in obedience, to the call we are all given to forgive others. And it’s a pleasure to watch and to see Christ so clearly in his actions.

But not everyone is supportive of his decision – even among his Christians friends and family, and so I’m forced to ask why we are happy to pray these words with the same breath that we use to discourage those who are obedient to it.

Matthew 6 records that after Jesus taught this prayer to his disciples he said

14For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

I have to be honest with you – I don’t know what this means. And I’m happy for you to shed some light on it for me. I don’t doubt that I am saved by faith alone, but this is a strong statement about the need to forgive others and I’m fairly sure that can’t be explained away.

What I do know is that we live in a world where the most important thing to us is our own personal autonomy. I think this encapsulates an attitude that if I’m wronged in some way it’s my right to hang onto that for as long as I choose. If I choose to forgive someone, I will do it on my terms, when its suits me.

Matthew 18 reminds us that the sin against us, that we are so slow to forgive, is nothing compared to what has been forgiven of us in the love of Christ. It’s his example we follow and this is why we should be quick to forgive others.

I am thankful that Jesus has forgiven me so much more than I would ever deserve. He didn’t wait for me apologise and try to make amends. Rather HE took the first step and forgave me, before I even knew I needed it.

So it’s my prayer that we would take seriously the words we so often pray

“And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us

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