Our Father who is in heaven, You are holy. We are Your children and we need to learn from Your only begotten Son, our brother and our King. We need to learn how He taught us to pray. We are here to think about the revolutionary, dangerous words that He gave us to understand how we should talk with You. We trust You for the various things that we need to get us through every day. In this moment we ask that You would open our hearts and minds to understand forgiveness. Forgive us our sin as we forgive those who sin against us. Bring into our thoughts the people that we need to forgive. The people who have wronged us. The people who have hurt us. People that are angry with us. The people we are angry with. Keep them in our thoughts as we think about Your word. Help us to hear everything as it applies to them. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. AMEN
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.
Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
Forgiveness is a big deal. Especially in the church. Of the 66 dangerous words in the Lord’s Prayer, this might be the most dangerous of them all. It’s the one that got Jesus killed. When Jesus told a man “your sins are forgiven” the leaders attacked Him saying “this man is a blasphemer because only God can forgive sins!” But Jesus kept saying it, and they kept getting mad, until one day they had enough and they killed Him for it. The interesting thing is that as Jesus was hanging on the cross, being publicly humiliated, tortured and dying – He said it again. Only this time He said it about the very people that were murdering Him. He prayed “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” The same words that they used against Him, He gave to them as a gift.
So, I’m going to talk about forgiveness. Because of Jesus, God forgives us of our sin. Our Sin. What is sin? Do you think you know what sin is? You might be surprised. And in the Lord’s Prayer there is that phrase “forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This sounds like we are making a bargain. What if we have trouble forgiving others? Does that mean God is not going to forgive us? Seems like we are making a bad deal. Also, I thought God’s forgiveness was unconditional, so what’s with the condition? I’m going to talk about that, too. Hopefully, by the end, we will have a better understanding of the forgiveness we receive, what we are being forgiven of, and the forgiveness that we are supposed to give to others.
DON’T PLAY FAIR
Let me paint you a picture of some different people who I have seen struggle with forgiveness.
Have you ever known someone who doesn’t forgive people? Someone who believes in being “fair.” They approach every relationship with every person in their life with the unspoken agreement of “I will treat you well if you treat me well. I’ll be nice to you, as long as you are nice to me.” But, eventually something happens that breaks the deal. I was talking to an elderly gentlemen one day and he was telling me about his family. He went through them one by one and told me how they had disappointed him. He said that out of everyone he knew, there was only one of his daughters who had not failed him. He would play games like chess or ping pong with people, until they beat him, and then he would never play that game with them again. He would be kind and trusting with people, until he saw a flaw in their intentions or integrity, and then he would cross them off with a big X. Once you were crossed out, it was over. One strike and you’re out. He would continue to be polite, but you would never get in his good graces again. The “X” never went away
TREAT PEOPLE BETTER THAN THEY DESERVE
Here’s a tip: If you want to ruin every relationship in your life, it’s pretty easy. Just play fair. Treat everyone well as long as they treat you well. But, for the rest of us who don’t want to end up alone and bitter, then we have to forget about playing fair. We have to treat people BETTER than they treat us.
Remember Jesus’ words: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Over the years I have had conversations with a lot of people about their marriages. Forgiveness is just about the hardest concept in marriage. Many women have walked in on their husband looking at things they have no business looking at. Leading to tearful, painful conversations, one person being filled with shame and regret and the other person being filled with anger, betrayal, and mistrust. Both are humiliated and the relationship is damaged.
I have known of husbands who find out that their wife is having an affair, or wives who find out that their husband is being unfaithful. They see a conversation on facebook, find a series of text messages on their cell phone. I have known multiple situations where right in the middle of the actual act of infidelity a person accidentally “butt-dials” their spouse. The unsuspecting spouse gets a call where they are listening to their husband or wife flirting or moaning with another person. Yikes! There is a verse in the Bible that says “Your sin will find you out.” Believe it.
Relationships get damaged. But where does it go from there? Sometimes the innocent party is so shocked that they are not able to see their spouse in the same light again. They feel betrayed and angry and like all is lost. They refuse to forgive the other, because they think that forgiving is the same thing as giving them permission to keep doing it. To them it feels like forgiving is the same thing as condoning the sin. This attitude leads to permanently broken relationships.
FORGIVING SIN IS NOT CONDONING SIN
But, forgiving something is not the same as condoning it. God does not condone sin, but He does forgive sin.
Sometimes the most difficult person to forgive is ourself. I think we tend to forgive others the same way we forgive ourselves.The way we think that God has forgiven us. Most of us keep holding onto guilt and shame. And we can be the most self-righteously ugly when we’re withholding forgiveness from someone. We think that we are better than them because of what they have done. When we refuse to forgive, or refuse to be forgiven, we make an ugly mess of our lives.
On the other hand, I have also seen a lot of people forgive each other for terrible things. I have walked with them through confession and repentance and to full restoration. It may seem impossible in the moment, but there really can be forgiveness. And with true forgiveness there can be rebuilt trust and restored relationship.
God forgives sin. He never condones sin. And, Jesus paid the ultimate price for all our sin. But what is sin?
Blessed is the one whose TRANSGRESSION is forgiven,
whose SIN is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no INIQUITY,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
There are three words for sin used in this verse. Transgression, Sin, and Iniquity.
Blessed is the one whose TRANSGRESSION (rebellion) is forgiven,
Transgression is open rebellion. It’s when you knew what you were supposed to do, or not do, but you did it anyway. These are all military metaphors in this Psalm, so this is like being on the battlefield and disobeying your commanding officer. It’s like firing your weapon when you were ordered not to, or refusing to charge with the rest of the company. This is a big deal. High rebellion and treason.
whose SIN (MISTAKES) is covered.
Sin is missing the mark. It’s swinging and missing. It’s like when you obey the order to take the shot, but you miss. You blow it. This is also a big deal, because if you miss your target in the heat of a battle, then you and your friends are going to die.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no INIQUITY (WARPED),
And this is where we get right down to it, because iniquity is what we inherit from our common father Adam. We are born broken. Crooked. Warped. On the battlefield, it’s like we can’t shoot straight if we wanted to. Our hearing is poor, so we don’t hear the orders clearly, our eyesight is bad so we can’t see what we are aiming at, our hands are unsteady, our gun is broken and we are out of ammo. Heck, throw in there that we are a coward and don’t even want to be a soldier. This is what we would call our sin nature.
So, when we pray “Forgive us our sin,” we are saying forgive us for our offensive acts of open rebellion, forgive us for the times that we try to do right – but we fail – we miss the mark, and forgive us because we are black-hearted sinners from the day we are born who really just want to throw God off the throne and be the king of our own lives. That’s what we are asking for. All of our sin. Thought, word, and deed.
And he does it. He forgives us. Wherever we are. Whatever we were doing. The Father loves us so much that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever would believe in Him would not perish but receive eternal life. This is good news. We are given grace and forgiveness because of Jesus. “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”
The last line:
and in whose spirit there is no DECEIT (DECEPTION).
Deceit. Deception. Gile. Sloth. This last phrase speaks to our self awareness of our sin. It speaks to our understanding of who we are, and what we have done. It speaks to how we see ourselves in relation to others.
God forgives us for our open rebellion. But we have to be honest about it. No deceit. We have to call it what it is. We have to confess that we did it, that we meant to do it, and that we are wrong for doing it. When He tells us to charge the enemy lines, and we are afraid so we run the other way. We have to admit that we disobeyed an order. We also have to resist the temptation to blame our rebellion on someone else. “Well, I wasn’t the only one who ran the other way!” “I was going to charge the enemy lines, but I needed to hit an ATM first.” “I had to go home and get my inhaler and my epi pen.”
God forgives us for our failures. The times that we miss the mark. We tried to do the right thing, but we did the wrong thing anyway. But, if there is no deceit, then that means we don’t make excuses. We are going to swing and we miss, and it doesn’t do any good to blame the bat or the ball. Or the umpire or the coach or the rest of your team. Or the sun in your eyes. Or the hotdog you ate for lunch.
And God forgives us for our iniquity. Our brokenness. Our dark, sinful nature. The part of us that is warped and mean. But, you know, this goes against modern sensibilities. Because, we say that we think people are basically good. God says that the heart of man is deceitfully wicked above all things. We say that babies are born innocent and pure. God says that I was born a sinner from the moment I was conceived in my mother’s womb. We tend to see ourselves differently than God sees us.
WE JUDGE OURSELVES BASED ON OUR MOTIVES,
BUT WE JUDGE OTHER PEOPLE BASED ON WHAT THEY DO.
We judge OURSELVES based on our intentions. Our motives. But, we judge OTHER PEOPLE based on their actions and words. God forgives us for our broken intentions and motives, too. But, we need to confess that we are not good. No one is good. Not one of us is GOOD.
One of the lies that Christians believe is that we have to be perfect. We might even have the bumper sticker on our car that says “Christians are not perfect, we’re just forgiven.” But, we still think we should be perfect. And we certainly think that other Christians should be perfect. We can forgive people for almost anything they did in the past, but going forward we expect them to keep their act together.
The fact is, once we are forgiven by Jesus we are blameless in God’s sight; but we are still flesh, and we will struggle with temptations and weakness in this world. We have to face the fact that even though we love God and really want to please Him, we will make mistakes. We will fail God, and we will fail the people we love. This is where forgiveness gets really interesting.
LUKE 11:4 & MATTHEW 6:12
There are two versions of the Lord’s Prayer. In Luke’s version it says:
“forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
and in Matthew’s version it says:
“forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12
In Luke’s it sounds like he is saying that God forgives us BECAUSE we forgive other people. Whoa! I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the sound of that. And Matthew’s version isn’t any better, because it seems to say that God will forgive us AS we have forgiven others.
No matter how you look at it there is something going on here that says God’s forgiveness to us has something to do with our forgiveness of others. There is definitely some kind of conditional language here. But, how bad is it?
I think most of us that follow Jesus take the first part of this prayer very seriously, “Lord, please forgive me of my sin!” and we confess our sin to Him trusting that He will grant us mercy, forgiveness and grace. Then we sorta, kinda pay a little attention to the next part and pray, “and help me to forgive the people who have wronged me. As long as what they did wasn’t too bad. And as long as they apologize first. And as long as there is not money involved.”
But, that’s not what it says.
Let’s look at another famous Bible passage on forgiveness, Matthew 18:21
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”
Peter is asking how many times a Jesus follower should forgive someone. He figures, knowing Jesus, it will be a ridiculous amount of times. So, he guesses seven. That seems ridiculous enough to Peter.
Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Other translations of this are even worse. Seventy times seven. Which is 490. But, I’m not sure the exact number is really the point. Or that it even matters. If we keep reading I think you’ll see what I mean.
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.
A talent was not a unit of money per say. it was a unit of monetary reckoning valued at about 6,000 drachmas, the equivalent of about 20 years’ wages. So, in modern terms this would be like a minimum wage worker who makes $30,000 a year and owes about six Billion dollars. Jesus is making the point that the servant is in way over his head and the debt could never be paid.
So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.
It is obvious that we are to see Jesus as the King and ourselves as the servant that He has forgiven a six billion dollar debt. So far so good.
But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’
What do we, the servant, do with our new life of forgiven debt? We run into someone who owes us and we try to choke the money out of them. How much money in modern value do you think a hundred denarii is? Well, This was still a large amount – equivalent to about 20 weeks of common labor, or about $12,000 in today’s terms. It’s nothing to sneeze at. It’s a big debt. I’ve never loaned anyone 12 thousand dollars. But, it’s nowhere near 6 billion.
So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’
These are pretty much the same words that the first servant had used when he pleaded with the king.
He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.
That was a six billion dollar mistake. And just in case Peter didn’t understand that Jesus was still answering the question about how many times we should forgive someone who wrongs us, Jesus goes on to say…
So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. So, is that it then? If we don’t forgive are we doomed? Is God only going to forgive us if we are able to forgive the people who wrong us – from our heart? Because it seems to me that this is impossible. We are broken, we are bent, and no matter how hard we try or how much we want to forgive everyone who has hurt us FROM OUR HEART we will fail. We will miss the mark. We may as well just refuse to forgive and stand before God in high rebellion. On our own this is impossible.
Hear these words:
It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me. Galatians 2:20
Greater is he who is in me that he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4
For with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. Matthew 19:26
What if the actual message of forgiveness is bigger and more wonderful than we ever imagined?
What if when Jesus says that we should pray, “Forgive us our trespasses, our sins, our debts, our iniquity.” He means that we will be forgiven of our rebellion – we will be deemed innocent, our iniquity will be imputed with righteousness and made new – we will be born again! And our sin will be covered, paid for and redeemed by the blood of Jesus. Though our sins were as red as blood we will be washed clean and as white as snow. This is spiritual forgiveness. This is heaven and hell, salvation forgiveness. This is the mercy that makes us safe from the wages of sin, death and the wrath of God. We were dead men walking. We were on our way to the gallows, and now we are pardoned. We are free. We are forgiven.
JESUS FORGIVES OUR SPIRITUAL SIN
WE FORGIVE PHYSICAL DEBTS
And what if when Jesus says “forgive those who trespass against us.” He means just that. We are to forgive the debts of the people who personally owe us. If we loan money to someone and they can’t pay us back, we let it go. If someone says an unkind word to us, we don’t return the unkind word, or worse. Because left to our own selfish hearts we tend to escalate things. We return an unkind word with a punch to the face. We return a punch to the face with a bullet to the head. “You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But Jesus says, Don’t do evil for evil. if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other also.
Jesus forgives us of our spiritual debt. Our sin. But, what if the debt we are supposed to forgive is physical debt – not spiritual debt. “forgive our sin (spiritual debt) for we forgive our debtors (physical debt). It is conditional. We are in danger if we don’t do this. We stand under grace, so we give grace.
But, how does that play out in real life? What does it mean to forgive someone physical debt? And how do we treat them once we forgive them?
When the King forgave the servant six billion dollars, it means that the servant was no longer required to pay the money back. But, does that mean that The King would be willing to loan him money again? What do you think would have happened if a week went by and the servant came back and asked to borrow a couple million? “Well, since I forgave you, I guess I have to be an idiot and loan you a bunch of money again.” I don’t think so. I don’t think he would get a dime.
When God forgives us of our sin He removes it from our account completely. But He also might put things in place to protect us from doing it again.
When we forgive each other, it’s the same. We still have to live with the ripples and consequences of what we have done.
In the movie “O Brother Where art thou” Delmar O’Donnell gets baptised and says: Well that’s it, boys. I’ve been redeemed. The preacher’s done warshed away all my sins and transgressions. Neither God nor man’s got nothin’ on me now.
and Ulysses Everett McGill responds by saying: That’s not the issue Delmar. Even if that did put you square with the Lord, the State of Mississippi’s a little more hard-nosed.
GOD FORGIVES US COMPLETELY
BUT THERE WILL BE EARTHLY CONSEQUENCES
If you get caught with your pants down either in front of your computer or with another person, then you pray and ask God to forgive you. – He will. Completely. And your spouse should forgive you, too. But, that doesn’t mean that you should have unlimited and unsupervised access to the internet. That would be stupid. Or that you should expect to go on business trips where you will have no accountability for who you are with or what you are doing. That wouldn’t be good for either of you. It will only breed further mistrust and opportunity for sin.
If someone is cruel to you. If they say or do unkind things. You shouldn’t retaliate. You shouldn’t say mean things in response to get them back. That will only escalate the problem. And you should forgive them. But, that doesn’t mean you have to sign up for more abuse. If you can just walk away, then just walk away. Shake the dust off your feet.
And if they are a family member or a co-worker that you can’t avoid being around, then after you forgive them you need to set some boundaries in place so that they can’t continue to hurt you. Talk with them directly and ask them to stop whatever it is they’re doing. If talking with them directly doesn’t help, then you will have to get a mediator. Someone to help facilitate the conversation. Find some accountability. Most of the time I think people have never actually had the hard conversations to try to repair these situations.
There are going to be times that you are hurt by dangerous people, people who are evil and will only continue to hurt you. In these situations you have to forgive them, but you also have to get away from them. You might even need to get the authorities involved and take legal action. There is not necessarily a conflict between forgiving them for what they have personally done to you, or owe you, and keeping yourself and others safe by pressing charges for a crime.
You might have seen in the news this week when a local stripper sped away from police and crashed into another driver and killed him, and she was charged with murder. And the victim’s sister was interviewed, saying some pretty dark things. The sister said, “It just hurts so bad, “ “I hope she rots in hell one day, seriously. I hate her for taking my brother away from me.” “I can’t forgive her. I will never forgive her.”
Dark words, aren’t they? But, it’s completely understandable. We feel for the victim’s sister. We don’t want to fault her for the anger and sadness she feels at this terrible injustice. Her brother was killed by a stupid girl. The stupid girl is going to be charged with murder, and she should be. But, if the sister doesn’t find a way to forgive she will only be hurting herself.
The forgiveness that we grant to others is not really for them. If we harbor hatred and offense in our heart toward another person because of something they said or did to us, it’s poison to OUR soul. Not theirs. Forgiving them is the only way to stop poisoning ourself.
There may come a day when God forgives the stupid stripper girl. She may end up being one of His precious redeemed daughters washed clean by the work of the cross and the grace of Jesus. And there may come a day in Heaven when the sister of the victim is reunited with her brother. It’s a beautiful day, but as they are walking across the streets of gold they come across the stupid stripper girl. In heaven! At that point I hope nobody makes a six billion dollar mistake, if you know what I mean. I hope she is willing to forgive even as she has been forgiven.
WE HAVE TO BE OK WITH GOD FORGIVING PEOPLE
There is a good chance that we are all going to meet people who have wronged us. – in church. On earth and in heaven. but if God has forgiven them, then we need to be OK with that.
FORGIVENESS IS NOT A ONE TIME DEAL (FOR US)
Forgiveness is not a one time deal. We walk in forgiveness. We forgive someone and then the anger wells up in us and we have to forgive them again. And then we see their ugly stupid face and we have to forgive them again. How many times? As many as it takes. Unto seventy times seven – as long as you’re not counting or keeping track.
At the beginning of this I asked that God would put the people on your heart and in your mind that you need to forgive. Have you been thinking about them? Have you been applying this message to what they have done to you and what you need to do to forgive them? Have you been thinking about how hard that’s going to be?
Think of the person that God has put on your heart. They did you wrong and you need to forgive them. Not for them. But, for you. Think of that person and pray this prayer with me, “Father, Thank You for helping me through the pain and the hurt of what this person has done to me. Help me to forgive them, so that You, Heavenly Father, will forgive me of my transgressions against you, my failings, and my iniquity.”
Lord, there are people who have been wronged in terrible ways. There those among us that have suffered rape, abuse, molestation, had abortions, suffered and committed adultery, a drunk driver has taken someone from us, people have been unjustly fired, slandered, friends and loved ones have been murdered – these and other terrible situations have left us struggling and tearfully admitting that we cannot forgive from our own hearts. Not in our own strength. Not by our own understanding. So, give us a new heart, Lord. Renew Your Spirit within us. Give us Your peace.
May we be a people who know we are forgiven. And may we also share that forgiveness with the people in our lives. It’s not going to be easy. We are going to want to punch back. Fire back with angry words. We are going to want to hide darkness in our heart until it poisons every part of our soul. We are going to want to ignore people and avoid them, rather than lean into the conflict and have the hard conversations that can lead to real healing and true forgiveness. But, may we be a people who are under grace and offering grace to others.