Published on August 26th, 2011 | by Stephanie S. Smith
Giving and Forgiving
Many people, myself included, know the Lord’s prayer by heart. For myself, it has sometimes become a rote routine…something to recite at church, the meaning lost under the familiarity of the words. But today I read it differently.
Take a moment to read Matthew 6:7-15, slowly and thoughtfully.
What Stands Out
This is what stands out to me: “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” In the same breath, Jesus instructs us to go to God for our daily needs and also to let go of the wrongs committed against us. In the same sentence, we are taught to ask God to give to us good things, and at the same time forgive those who have hurt us. I wonder if this is an intentional cycle, of giving and forgiving. God gives, and asks us to forgive. Forgiveness is like an inversion of a gift; it is a canceled crime, a gift in itself.
Something else I notice in this verse is the tense of the verbs. In this verse, “forgiven” is in past tense. This tells me that I must reconcile and forgive those who have injured me before I approach God in prayer. This is supported in the earlier chapter of Matthew, which says that before we offer a gift to God, we must reconcile with our brother (Matt. 5:23-26).
It seems that the divine order of things is making peace with men before approaching the presence of God. This makes sense: how can I honor my Father while dishonoring my brother and sister?
After the Prayer…
I’ve never noticed before the verse immediately following the Lord’s prayer, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14-15).
In the entire Lord’s prayer, which is rich in beauty and truth, Jesus offers clarification on only one point: forgiving others. In this way, He emphasizes the importance of forgiving others and how it directly relates to our relationship with God. The point seems to be: as debtors of grace ourselves, we cannot afford to encore the judgment of others.
What else do you see in the Lord’s prayer?
Why do you think forgiveness is emphasized so much?