Forgive Us Our Debts…

Today’s Scripture:  Matthew 6:5-15

Most weeks of my life, I’ve said the same prayer aloud in church.  I’ve recited it literally thousands of times.  Sometimes I say it without thinking; most of the time, I say it without recognizing how revolutionary and challenging it is.

I’m talking, of course, about the Lord’s Prayer.

My awesome Duke Divinity School Intern, Ashley, and I wrestled with one challenging part in particular this week; the part where we’re supposed to pray:

“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

There is an uneasy insinuation here that God’s forgiveness is somehow contingent on our forgiveness of others.  Jesus drives this point home in uncomfortable clarity after finishing his model prayer:

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).

After a week of studying, talking, and praying over this text, Ashley and I haven’t quite figured it out.  We both believe strongly in God’s grace for us, one that is free and unearned.  We can’t definitively explain how the forgiveness God gives depends on the forgiveness we give.  But one thing is crystal clear:

We must forgive others.

Jesus makes this a non-negotiable, a basic requirement of his followers.

We must forgive each other.

Perhaps part of the reason we need to forgive each other is because by doing so, we begin to make the Lord’s Prayer a reality.  Remember, it begins with these words:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10).

When we pray like Jesus taught us to, we are asking God to make earth more like heaven.  What better way to bring God’s love into earth than to forgive others as God does?

Maybe you’re like me – maybe you pray the Lord’s Prayer often, but usually without thinking about it.  The next time you say it, may it be a challenge to you:

To forgive someone who has wronged you,

so that earth may be more like heaven.



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