By Ryan Shaw
Next, our Lord guides us into the fifth petition of the “Lord’s Prayer.” We have recognized our need for Him to supply our daily needs and now we see how desperate we are that He cleanse us from sinful actions before Him.
We have asked Him to “give us….” and now we say “forgive us…” How can we rightly enjoy daily bread if we are burdened by the poison of sin and its deadly spiritual effects upon us?
Sin is contrary to the holiness of God and dishonors us. He has promised that as a tender Father He will forgive, cleansing and empowering us to live in victory over areas of recurring sin.
Jesus uses the term “debt” for sin. This means a failure to pay that which is due – a failure of duty. There is no one alive today who can claim they have perfectly fulfilled their duty to God and to others.
Jesus is talking to believers in the Sermon on the Mount, those who are His own. He is calling us to daily invite the Holy Spirit to evaluate and reveal areas of sin we need to confess and turn from.
A question at times raised in connection with this petition is why a born again believer, possessing Jesus’ gift of righteousness, needs to confess and repent of sin. Hasn’t He already dealt with all that at the cross?
Jesus is not teaching here about prayer delivering us from the power of Satan and hell. That has already been dealt with, as His audience is born again believers, calling on God as “Father.”
My acknowledgement of separation between my heart and God’s is what is being focused on. We don’t lose our standing before God or our salvation based on sin, but we lose the level of relationship He created us to enjoy with Him.
What is being referred to is a consistent restoration of fellowship in a disciple’s life as we recognize and lay aside areas of sin we are prone, surrendering these to the cleansing power of Jesus’ blood.
Sin blocks our relationship with God. It numbs our spirits and makes it hard to sense the presence of God. Our hearts get cold and distant from God. It’s difficult to pray and the Word is boring and seems dead to us.
Jesus’ injunction to pray for the Father to forgive our sins is to have Him wipe away the stain of that sin through Jesus’ work. This transaction restores original communion with God as intended before the fall in Genesis 3.
Another question arises with the second part of the petition. Some say it sounds like we are only forgiven of sin as we forgive others. That means we are earning or attaining forgiveness instead of it being the work of total grace.
Instead, what Jesus is getting at is the proof we have been forgiven by God is we are compelled to forgive others for their sins against us. If we are not motivated to release others of sin done against us, this is an indicator we are not really understanding what we have received from God.
We don’t earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving others but display a proof that our hearts have really grasped what God indeed has accomplished through forgiving us of our own sin.
Because we understand what God has done in forgiving us, it is easier to extend that same understanding to those who sin against us. We grow in possessing a heart which seeks to give others the benefit of the doubt, instead of simply responding out of hurt and woundedness.
Knowing God promises that He takes our sin as “far as the east is from the west and remembers it no more” we choose to do the same for others. We choose to put what has been done in the past and press on to the future.
We release them within our hearts from whatever they did to break the relationship and harm us in some way. Then we choose love for them even as God loves us while we are sinners. We thus have restored relationships as much as it is reliant upon us.