In the center of the Lord’s Prayer, we find these words: And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. We have prayed to and acknowledged God. We acknowledge God as Father and as more, as both immanent and transcendent, here and beyond here. We then pray for the Kingdom to come and to do God’s will on earth, as it is in heaven. We pray that God give us this day our daily bread, which is not just about food we eat.
Now, we come to forgiveness.
We pray for ourselves and others. We pay for those we know and those we don’t, those near and far. We pray that God may grace, bless, and save the world. In praying this line, we acknowledge that God has already and is in the process of doing this in Christ. We acknowledge that God is and our hope is will remain active in this world in our lives.
Our sins are our debts. Each of us owes a debt to our Creator. A debtor is liable and as an offender, so are we. We have fallen short of the life that we were meant to live. We have wrecked havoc on our life and the life of others. We have all too often been less than we ought to be. Our hope and prayer to our loving Father should be that he forgives us our debts; that our obligation be cancelled that we may not suffer, but have the comfort of redemption. In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ lays the satisfaction of our debt. Jesus nailed our sins to the cross so that we may live life to the full with the guarantee of God’s grace, blessing, and saving love.
As my favorite theologian Robert Farrar Capon said, “He forgave you before you repented. That’s crucial. That is why it is so outrageous. The gospel is really vulgar, crass and immoral because it says God forgives the world before it repents. In the gospel, repent is always repent and believe. It means turn yourself around from not trusting the forgiveness and trust it. That’s it. It doesn’t mean that you earn it by repenting. You had it before. If you do something to me and you are wrong and I am right, you can repent all you want, but until I forgive you, it’s not going to do you a bit of good. It only helps when I have already forgiven you and you can enter into the restored relationship and turn again to me. Only I can decide to forgive you. God for His own idiot reasons decided to absolve the world. He really did. It’s outrageous. It’s immoral. It’s tough.”
Our faithful response to God’s forgiveness is to forgive others. We must forgive the insults and injures we incur, the wrongs done to us. Those unwilling to forgive, harboring dark thoughts, cannot expect to live into God’s grace, blessing, and saving love. It is not a requirement that we should forgive to be forgiven. No. It is a mark, a visible sign of what God is doing in our lives.
The spirit of Christianity requires that we forgive.
If we cannot from forgive, how can we say with any honesty that God forgives us?
To the above quote, Capon responded to a questioner that it being outrageous, immoral and very difficult is “the whole point.” To the same questioner who said, “But I’ve got to understand that we have got to love one another. We’ve got to follow the commandments if we are going to live together and have a good earth in which to enjoy.” Capon responded rightly, “That would work but that won’t do the job. Only He can do the job.”
Jesus has already secured us God’s grace, blessing, and saving love and nothing we do or don’t do will lessen or increase this. It is already ours and all we need do is repent, to turn, trust, and embrace what God offers freely with no strings attached.
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