Forgive & Be Forgiven - A Reflection on Matthew 6:7-15
“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“Pray then in this way: Our Father 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 bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
I have spoken about forgiveness several times before, and was tempted to reflect on something else, but felt led to talk about it again today because it is really important. One day, in response to his apostles request to teach them how to pray, Jesus taught them the beautiful prayer that has come to be known as ‘The Lord’s Prayer’. It is a prayer that we all know and many of us recite it daily. However, there is something that we say in it that seems to skip our attention: Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
We are telling our Father - nay, we are PRAYING to our Father - to forgive us our sins to the proportion we forgive others. But we don’t get it. And Jesus knew we wouldn’t get it, which is why after he taught his apostles this prayer, he said, “For if you forgive others their sins, your Heavenly Father will also forgive your sins; but if you do not forgive others their sins, your Heavenly Father will not forgive your sins.” That’s Matthew 6:14-15 and I would like you to read it for yourselves.
But why? you might ask. Why would a loving, merciful and compassionate God withhold his forgiveness? Jesus explains in a parable you will find in Matthew 18. There is a king who wants to settle accounts with his servants, and one of his debtors is a man who owes him a great deal of money. Because he can’t pay it back, the king orders that he, his family, and everything he owns is sold to pay back his debt. The man drops to his knees and begs the king for a little time to settle his debts.
The king laughs because the debt is so huge, even if he had ten lifetimes to pay it back, be wouldn’t be able to do so. But the king is merciful and he takes pity upon the servant and wipes out his debt completely. The man leaves, but no sooner does he leave the palace, he comes across another man who owes him a little bit of money. He catches his man and demands he be repaid. This man drops to his knees and begs for a little time, but the servant shows no mercy. He has him thrown into jail.
A few courtiers saw this and are outraged. They complain to the king, who sends for the servant. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger, his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured until he should pay back all he owed.” As we just saw, there was no way this man could pay back his debt so in effect he was being sentenced to rigorous life imprisonment.
Then Jesus says this “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” This isn’t because God wants us to suffer, but because when we don’t forgive others, we show that we take his forgiveness for granted, that we don’t really understand his love. All of us have sinned, and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). However, Jesus secured our forgiveness by taking our place, dying for us on the cross, paying the price with every drop of his blood.
If we understand this, we will forgive everybody else. Please do this; you will be blessed for it.