Forgive us our debts as we have also forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6:12 (NIV)
A debtor is someone who owes something to someone. Therefore “our debtors” are people who owe us something. The New Living Translation replaces the words “debt” and “debtor” with “sins” and “sin against us.” This clears up the question of “what do they owe us?” If someone sins against us what they owe is variable. They probably owe at least an apology, but perhaps they owe a great deal more – more than they can repay you, if they even care about repaying you at all.
Our sins against God are much greater than we can ever repay; therefore, Jesus became a man and bore our sins against God on the cross to repay all of our “debts” that we could not pay. Still, even in the light of all that we have been pardoned for, we often times refuse to forgive wrongs done to us by other people.
The Bible tells us that God forgives our sins if we only ask and purifies us (1 John 1:9), so why this “rule” or request? This prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, is to enlighten us. This line underscores the seriousness of unforgiveness to make us pay attention to it. It’s the only conditional request in the Lord’s Prayer.
It is a sobering thing to ask God to forgive you in direct proportion to the forgiveness you offer others. I do not hold grudges in the traditional sense. I never have been able to, even though I have wished to do so. If I am asked to forgive, I will. Most of the time I am ready to forget all about a spat, even without an apology. If the other party is willing to drop any animosity, acting as if nothing ever happened, I will too. Of course, I will also try to carry on as if nothing happened, hoping that the matter will just fade away on its own. I do not like to fight.
So far it seems that I am on the right track in this matter of forgiveness – not by a long shot. As I said, I do not hold grudges in the traditional sense of continuing the same disagreement for days, but in actuality, that is simply a selfish dislike of a disagreement. Forgiving my debtors requires releasing them within myself. To forgive my debtors, I must cease the dialog with myself detailing the sins committed against me and the tragic personality flaws that make this person unacceptable in my sight. I must cease blaming the other person for my actions, accepting that I am in charge of my own actions, and sometimes am the cause of my own troubles.
Pride keeps us from forgiving our debtors. We have been done wrong and someone should pay. Jesus paid it all on the cross. He took everyone’s sin and was given everyone’s punishment. He cancelled my right to punish what is done against me, just as He cancelled my punishment for my sins.
Lord, forgive us our debts, all the while helping us to forgive our debtors and realize that as our sins go unpunished, and others feel cheated because of that, that so must we let go of our self- described right to punish to fulfill the law of Christ and to please You. Amen.