By Not Known

Forgiveness of our sin-debt is the greatest need of humanity. It is no surprise that it is singled out for extended attention in the Lord’s Prayer.

Matthew writes of our ‘debts’ being forgiven to us whereas Luke uses the words for both ‘debts’ and ‘sins’ (Lke 11:4). The word ‘debts’ reminds us that every sin puts us into deficit with God. Every sin increases our liability to judgement.

Note carefully who our sin is against and who our debt is to. Our sins may or may not hurt others, but the sin and the debt is to God even when someone else is hurt (eg, Ps 51:4 / 1 Sam 11). It is God’s law that is broken, God’s glory that is robbed and God’s creation that is hurt and thus it is God alone who can forgive. We must first face our debt to God and then also face others whom we have hurt (eg, Lke 19:1-8).

This prayer for forgiveness comes with a rider and an explanation. (Mat 6:12,14-15). Our search for God’s forgiveness must be matched by our forgiveness of any who have harmed us. This is a question of integrity. We must do for others what we want God to do for us. Jesus tells us to extend this forgiveness by going to the person concerned to settle matters directly and in private, if possible (Mat 18:15-17).

It is not always possible to forgive personally those who sin against us – for example if they have gone away or passed away. However, it may be good to find another way to express forgiveness if we realise that we have a legacy of bitterness and hurt. We may need to do that to move on with God, ourselves and life.

Forgiveness can be sought with confidence. Any denial of sin is a lie to ourselves and makes God to be a liar – since he says that we all sin (1 Jn 1:8 — 2:6). However, if we confess our sin we gain the benefit of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice where he fully paid our debt to God. Notice however the rider – we must walk with Jesus in the light, such that sin is our aberration of character and not our habit.

Let us therefore forgive others of their sin against us, confess our sins and then pray together that God will forgive us our debts.