Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Matthew 6:12 & 14-15 God is our example

I am committed to verse by verse bible exposition. However, as I studied this section of scripture, I had a hard time separating verse 12 from verse 14 and 15. Now, that’s not to say that God made a mistake when He inspired Matthew to write these verses or that Matthew made a mistake and put t hem out of order. Rather, the trouble is more that I can’t seem to understand them apart from one another. As we look at these verses, we see that God shows us by example how we should deal with those who have wronged us. Because we like the servant in Matthew 18, have been forgiven of so much, we should be willing to forgive someone who’s debt to us is infinitesimal in comparison.

First of all, we notice in verse 12 a request made to God. Jesus tells us we should ask God to “forgive us our debts”. Now, the word debts in Greek means the same thing it does in English—to owe something to someone. Sin is, therefore, pictured in this verse as a debt, something that we owe God. Because all believers are justified before God positionally when they repent of their sins and place their faith in Christ, they stand before God righteous. However, practically all of us sin everyday. That sin removes fellowship with God, hinders our prayers, and is pictured as a debt here. We cannot experience the joy and peace of God without daily confession of our sins whether they are sins of omission or commission. We must go to God and implore His forgiveness when we sin. We need that debt removed from out account.

However, our forgiveness creates a responsibility for us to also be forgiving. Just as, in Matthew 18, the servant who was forgiven much would not forgive the one who owed him was punished, our unwillingness to forgive has consequences. In fact, Jesus says here that our forgiveness from God will be comparable to our forgiveness of those who have wronged us. Jesus says to pray that God will forgive us “as we forgive our debtors”. In other words, if we are praying to God for forgiveness for being unkind to someone and we have a grudge against someone who was unkind to us and have not forgiven them we should not expect to be absolved of our sin while we are withholding forgiveness from someone else. Our lack of willingness to forgive is a symptom that there is something wrong with our attitude. We are important enough that God should hear our pleas and equally important enough that we can ignore someone else as they plead for us to forgive them.

Jesus further clarifies this responsibility to forgive in verses 14 and 15. He doesn’t just imply that our unforgivness of others is a sin, He outright says so. Whether we forgive people determines whether God will forgive us when we come to Him for cleansing of our sin. Again, this is the daily forgiveness that we are to seek for our sins not the forgiveness being associated with being born again. However, I submit to you that if you are unwilling to forgive someone after having been forgiven yourself you have some serious spiritual issues that you need to get taken care of quickly—in fact, you may not be saved at all. Jesus uses the same word for sins in both verses. He calls them “transgressions”. In verse 12, sin is pictured as a debt to be paid. Here it is described as a metaphorical line that we have crossed. God has set the standard for righteousness and revealed that standard in the Bible or at bare minimum in our own conscience. We have all crossed that line. We’re all guilty of transgressing the commandments of God. He has positionally made us right with Him through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. However, even after being saved we still cross the line and sin. If we expect to have a right relationship with God and be forgiven when we need it, we must forgive others. To fail to do so impairs our relationship with God and our witness to the world.

Is this forgiveness a once for all act. In some ways yes and in some ways no, I think. I have forgiven people for things that they have done that I felt wronged me in the past. However, sometimes I still remember what they did. I can’t erase the memories. For that matter, I can’t erase the pain. So what I have to do is every time I remember that event or those words I choose again to forgive. I would love to say that I never remember what happened. However, I’m not going to lie. I can’t change what happened but I can choose to forgive because I have been forgiven.


Anonymous said...

Well put. I have something to think about now.

Keep in mind that God inspired men to write the books of the bible but men put the chapters and verse numbers in it. The words are flawless while the numbering is flawed.


Joe Blackmon said...

Thanks for the comment. Yeah, you can't go through the sermon on the mount without getting a few things to think about.