“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” – Matthew 6:12 NIV
This verse in the model prayer talks about God forgiving our debts (sins, trespasses).
And it also talks about us forgiving other people for their debts (sins, trespasses).
This can be a confusing verse because it seems God is requiring something of us, besides faith and trust, in ‘exchange’ for His forgiveness. But having to work for our salvation doesn’t concur with the free gift of eternal life (free to us, not to Him) Jesus offers throughout the New Testament. And just like we came into a relationship with God through faith, our life after salvation is to be a continued walk of faith in what He has done for us and wants to do through us.
Then I realized something. Forgiving others—sometimes of horrible things they’ve done to us or to someone we love—IS an act of faith and trust in God. It shows that we believe and trust that God will fulfill His promise in Romans 8:28 and bring something good out of the harm that was done, “ . . . in all things God works for the good . . . .”
It also reminds me of what Joseph said to his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good . . . .”
And, the opposite of that—NOT forgiving someone because it’s too hard or we just don’t want to—demonstrates a lack of faith and trust in God. I think it shows that we think we know better than God what extending forgiveness will do. We think it will make us look weak, or that it will appear we don’t think what the other person did was wrong, or that we’re saying it didn’t really hurt or that we are just going to forget it ever happened.
I’m not sure you can ever truly forgive someone until you have experienced God’s forgiveness. But once you have experienced it, I don’t believe you have an excuse NOT to forgive.
It’s not easy. It takes time for your feelings to catch up with your decision to forgive—because forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. In the beginning you have to confirm your forgiveness of them multiple times a day. And you may never forget what they did.
But like Jesus says in the model prayer—and immediately following it in verses 14-15—once you’ve been forgiven of EVERY WRONG YOU’VE EVER DONE, your life as a believer will be characterized by forgiveness.
Living any other way just does not compute!
Who do you need to forgive?
What do you need to forgive them for?
How long has it been since it happened?
What have you gained by hanging on to your resentment?
When are you going to make the decision to forgive them?