Last time we considered how much we need to be forgiven, and how generous God is with forgiveness. This time, we look at the next phrase, which is perhaps even harder to accomplish. We ask to be forgiven “as we forgive those who trespass/sin against us”.
Jesus is rather stern about the connection between being forgiven and forgiving others. In Matthew 18:21-22 “Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.’” It’s not that Jesus is saying we should keep tally of how many times we have forgiven someone, but rather that there should be no end to our forgiveness, just as there is no end to God’s forgiving us.
Jesus then goes on to tell a parable to illustrate the point. “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.” Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow-slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’ (Matthew 18:23-35)
It is not easy to forgive someone who has harmed you or even who keeps hurting you, and that is why we pray for help in doing just that. Not to excuse the behavior, but in fact for our own soul’s health and wholeness.
Enter the Presence: The daily post from the Society of St. John the Evangelist recently had a message about this line in the prayer. Brother David Vryhof says, “When we pray, “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” we are recognizing that a deep connection exists between our willingness and capacity to forgive and God’s forgiveness of us. God is not saying that our ability to be forgiven depends on our own efforts to forgive others. Rather, we are asking that the forgiveness we receive from God may lead us to forgive those who have wronged us.”
Think about someone that you have a hard time forgiving. Maybe it is for something that happened a long time ago. Perhaps it’s an ongoing situation. It could be that the other person is not even aware that they have angered or wronged you in some way. Offer this incident to God.
Stand In Awe: Read the parable again and imagine you are standing before the King of Kings and that all your sins great and small have been erased, like the slave in the parable. (They have you know.) This image of The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant by Pieter Coecke Van Aelst (1502-50) may help you enter the scene.
How does it feel to have a clean slate? Will you do things differently from now on? What difference does this new chance make to your life going forward?
Involve your Heart: Then leave the presence of the King. You meet someone who has sinned against you. What will you do?
Is it hard to remember that you are supposed to forgive when someone treats you poorly?
Praying for someone is the best way to change your opinion of them. Choose 5 people who you find difficult to deal with. (or less if you can’t think of 5-lucky you!) Choose one of the options from Thy Kingdom Come for praying for friends to remind you to pray, then be committed to praying for them this week.
This week focus on Forgive those who trespass against us.
Next week we’ll ask for guidance and direction.
*From Thy Kingdom Come