12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.] 14 “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. 15 But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.
Matthew 6:12–15 9 (HCSB)
As I was getting ready to call it a night, I just felt something in my heart that said, “write about forgiveness.” So, here I go.
I have been talking to a lot of people who are struggling with lots of different kinds of things lately. All these issues seem so different, yet they are all, at the center, the same. At the core of these issues is forgiveness. The key to overcoming these issues is how we respond forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a key to our spiritual journey from the beginning. Our Salvation or rescue from sin is all about how we respond to Jesus Christ and his sacrifice. He died for our sins and gave us the opportunity to receive this free gift (Romans 5:12-19). Once we receive this gift, the Bible tells us that we get grafted into the vine. As His chosen people and that we will live forever (John 3:16).
This gift is not based on works or any other thing that we might do (Romans 6:23). It is just given. As a matter of fact, we know that once we have received this gift he doesn’t even remember our sins (Psalm 103:10-14, Micah 7:19).
Think about this and how our Father has forgiven us because of Jesus.
He became our one-time Passover lamb for our past, present, and future sins so we have an opportunity to live with Him forever. This eternal life that we have starts now and does not depend on our death. In other words, we start living our enteral life the moment we receive His gift for us. I believe this is the place we have to start so that we can better understand forgiveness in biblical terms.
We have watered down this message over the years to mean an apology or saying I am sorry. That is just not the same. Saying I am sorry does not mean that you are asking for forgiveness. Forgiveness has actions attached to it where an apology is just words without action.
Let’s break down this passage in Matthew 6:
Background to Matthew 6
This was part of a lesson about how we should pray. It Jesus’ first recorded public message. We call it the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus was giving this as a set of instructions. So that people would know how things would operate in the New Kingdom.
When God brought the people out of Egypt He Gave them the Tora (Hebrew for instruction) or the Law. God did this so that His people would know how to live and act.
The Sermon on The Mount was Jesus saying this is how my people are going to fulfill the Law in My Kingdom.
Our first reaction is that Jesus is talking about money because he uses the word debt. But He is actually speaking about all kinds of debts. Think about how we feel when someone hurts us. We feel like they owe us something, like an apology. What if we hurt someone? Don’t we feel like we owe them something?
We are to pray that God (our Father) will help us forgive who we owe and forgive others for what others owe us. Again, it’s not just about money.
Think about the freedom that comes with forgiving. We don’t have to account for that issue anymore. Our thoughts can be free from it. The enemy will bring them back to us at times, but we have the power through Christ to take it captive.
I believe that this verse is a continued teaching on forgiveness. Jesus is saying that we need to pray that we would not give into temptation and the scheme of the enemy. We must not hold onto unforgiveness. Instead, we should ask God to deliver us from this tactic of the enemy. Because with unforgiveness comes bitterness. With bitterness, we will not grow spiritually, socially or emotionally.
You might be saying, “but you don’t know what “they did to me!” You are right, I don’t. But I do know what Jesus says about this in the next part of the verse.
You see this is not just a way to end a prayer. Jesus is saying that in His Kingdom people will forgive one another. And that even when we don’t think they can, He has the power and He will receive the glory for it all – forever. Then Jesus ends the prayer with Amen, meaning, “So be it.”
Just like Jesus tells so many to, “go and sin no more”, He is telling us, “Go and forgive.” Forgiveness puts us in the proper place to have true healing in our lives. Without it, we become stuck in our own hurts and pretty soon we have made the hurt deeper that what it was before.
These verses emphasize God’s concept of forgiveness. If we don’t forgive, then how can the Father forgive us? How we forgive others is how the Father forgives us. Now, if we think about this, it should lead us to a deep thought process. Do we believe this passage?
Knowing is not the same as believing.
I can say to you that I know a chair will hold me up, but I don’t believe it until I sit in the chair. Belief calls me to action, where knowledge does not. We must ask the question do we believe what this passage is teaching us? Are we willing to act and forgive?
We must forgive, Jesus makes this clear. What about reconciliation? We think these two words forgiveness and reconciliation are the same. They are not.
Forgiveness can take place between a hurt person and God. This may take place without the one who did the hurt knowing. Reconciliation is about healing broken relationships between people.
If there has been a deep broken trust and hurt, this can be a lengthy process. We are called to the ministry of reconciliation. We are called to mend broken relationships.
Many of us have been hurt so bad that we look at reconciliation as impossible. I believe that we must come to the understanding that all things are possible with Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Yes, sometimes there are toxic relationships. For these relationships, real reconciliation will look different. Maybe in the case of toxic relationships, reconciliation looks like this:
2. The realization that this relationship is not healthy.
3. We move on without bitterness and without holding onto the debt. We then free ourselves and the other party involved.
4. We let God sort out the rest of it while maintaining safe boundaries.
I know that, depending on circumstances, there may be more steps but this is only an example.
I guess what I am trying to say is reconciliation does not always mean that things will be like they were before. I don’t think we should want that at all. We should all want to be healthier and closer to Jesus in every situation that we face.
If we are not moving forward, we are stuck. And I believe the longer we are stuck the easier it is to go backward in our growth.
So, what are some steps that we all need to take for reconciliation?
- Pray for those that hurt us (Luke 6:28, Hebrews 4:16)
- Be honest about our motives. Are we doing this because God has asked us to or are we using this to manipulate or for revenge?
- Have a humble attitude. Take responsibility for anything that we might have done to contribute to the situation.
- Be honest with our own feelings. Don’t suppress them or make them bigger than they are.
- Give God control of the process and reach out for Jesus. Sacrifice time for prayer and study of His word.
- Be realistic about the process and guidelines for restoration. Do not make things so difficult that it is impossible for healing to take place. This is a good sign that you are manipulating things for your own benefit.
- Don’t do this alone. Jesus wants us to live in a community and He has placed people in our lives that you can trust and lean on. Make sure that these people are lovers of Jesus and that we can see Him in their lives. Get together with these people and spend time in prayer and study. Listen to them and take what they say to heart. Yes, even when they are saying hard things and challenging us.
God will use this process to grow us closer to Him. If we allow this process we will continue to become more like Jesus.
You might be asking, “how do I know if someone is genuine about repentance?” Here are some general signs that would help you see if someone is genuine:
- Accepts full responsibility for his or her actions. (Instead of: “Since you think I’ve done something wrong . . . ” or “If I have done anything to offend you . . .”)
- Welcomes accountability from others.
- Does not willfully continue in the hurtful behavior.
- Does not have a defensive attitude about being in the wrong.
- Does not dismiss or downplay the hurtful behavior.
- Does not resent doubts about their sincerity. Or does not resent the need to prove sincerity—especially in cases involving repeated offenses.
- Makes restitution where necessary.
It is important to note the difference between repentance and apology. It is the same as knowledge verse belief. Genuine repentance moves someone to action like the steps listed above. An apology is nothing more than words without actions. Think about when a parent says to their children, “apologize to each other, now!” The children may say the words but their hearts are not in it.
I believe that an apology without action is a cause for a hardening of the heart. It teaches that all we have to do is say the words and everything is ok. I believe this is a huge issue in our culture.
We need to make sure that we are not hanging on to the hurt. We need to make sure we are not using this hurt as a tool to get even. We need to let things go.
It is important to be part of a community of healing. I know, full well, that the enemy will bring things of the past up again and again. We might even fall for it from time to time. But with help, we can learn to let things go and continue one with the journey that Jesus has laid before us.
Reconciliation is required as we grow towards Jesus but it may not look the same in every situation. There are no cookie cutter answers.
I believe that we all need to be part of a group of Christian people who we can talk things out with. People who will challenge us every step of the way and encourage us. May prayer is that God’s people will take on this battle of forgiveness and reconciliation.
In His Grip,