“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
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.”Jesus – Matthew 6:9-14
Confess, be forgiven, forgive others – repeat.
This is one of the scripture passages Rebekah will be referencing when she wraps up her series on “forgiveness” Sunday morning during worship.
If there could be a “running header” over all three sermons it would have read like this: “Confess, be forgiven, forgive others – repeat.”
The reading is pulled from Jesus’ words about prayer during The Sermon on the Mount. This collection of sayings could well be described as “Everything you wanted to know about Christ’s teachings in one handy reference.” Likewise, The Lord’s Prayer is – essentially – “Everything Jesus wants us to know about prayer in one easy-to-memorize sound bite.”
Jesus doubles down:
Jesus goes on to double down on the importance of being a forgiving person. Forgiveness – and this is direct from Jesus – is absolutely critical to the life of faith.
When we were talking about this, Rebekah pointed out that forgiveness is a pervasive and unifying scriptural theme. Remove the role forgiveness has to play – time and again, in every story from Genesis through Revelation – and the great arc of the biblical narrative loses one of its most critical cohesive factors.
I’ll put it this way: Forgiveness is the binding element that follows Adam and Eve from the Garden, invites Abraham into covenant with God, and sustains the Hebrew people through their long journeys, epic failures, and fleeting moments of redemption. Forgiveness gave hope to the judges, promised a future to the people, and lit a fire under the prophets. Forgiveness invited the Christ child to the manger, led Jesus to the cross, gave a message to the Apostles, and conquers death to this day. Forgiveness spoke promise to and through the early church, it has sustained Christianity through 2,000 years of checkered history, it calls us to our knees and into redemption, and it brings each one of us back to the table for communion and into a living relationship with God.
But isn’t it a done deal?
So does God actually hold forgiveness over our heads and withhold it if we do not prove worthy? Or… does this all relate back to the “poor in spirit” conversation we had not too long ago, when we talked about the fact that unless we see ourselves as standing in need of redemption then we are likely in no position to receive it?
“I have forgiven you,” God is saying, “but you must receive it! Let go of your self righteousness, your self absorption, your arrogance, and your unwillingness to be a forgiving person… Your pride, your sin, and your hypocrisy stand guard at the door to your own soul.”
My pride. My sin. My hypocrisy. These all stand guard at the door to my own soul.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me…”– Revelation 3:20
Forgiveness offered – no strings attached – is one thing. Forgiveness received is something else entirely.
I really appreciate this God of personal responsibility I follow. God invites me to be a participant in my own redemption.
In love, and because love is our opportunity – DEREK