Sermon on the Mount: The Lord’s Prayer - Forgiving Debts
“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
Matthew 6:12 NASB1995
After petitioning God for our physical needs, Jesus tells us to seek forgiveness and forgive others as a crucial part of our relational needs. Just like we need our daily bread, we need to confess our sins every day and forgive others every day who have wronged us. This statement is further amplified in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:14-15, which is just after the end of the Lord’s Prayer and again in Matthew 7:1-5, where Jesus talks about judging.
I grew up reciting the Lord’s Prayer using the word “trespass” instead of debt, although debt seems to be the more popular word used in many different translations, including the NASB1995 (my default version for these studies). The Greek word for debt is opheilema, which is something that is owed or, metaphorically, an offense or sin. Our debts to God and others are many in our lives and we must seek forgiveness but also should forgive others FIRST, before asking for our forgiveness (“clean the slate”). C.S. Lewis, in his book Weight of Glory says it well:
To be Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life—to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son—how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.” We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says.
Forgiveness is not easy! I am struggling with a family member who refuses to accept our pleas for forgiveness from him for offenses that we apparently committed, which makes my forgiveness of his “trespasses” (and obstinacy) seem less sincere. But we try every day.
My next Sermon on the Mount devotional will examine the final phrase of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:13 - Lead us not into temptation.
C.S. Lewis excerpt is from the C.S. Lewis Institute - per their copyright statement reflections and devotionals with materials from C.S. Lewis are permitted to be used by non-profit ministries.