Forgive Us As We Forgive
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12)
Forgiveness is essential to real community. In order for there to be forgiveness, there also have to be offenses, or debts. This request clearly implies that forgiveness is to be received in the context of such a community. Forgiveness from the Father is to be received in the context of fellowship with those who sin against us and therefore must be forgiven by us. Because of this, we must pray and we must pray that we forgive and that we are forgiven.
Forgiveness is hard. We often wrestle with the pain of forgiving others. We forgive, and then are tempted to take it back. We want to be quickly forgiven by God and yet we struggle to quickly forgive others. We think it is hard, and it is. Forgiving us was hard for Jesus. He went to the cross for that purpose. He bore our punishment and didn’t heap it back on us. It required that He pray in order to accomplish it (Matthew 26:36-45), and it will require us to pray in order for us to forgive others.
We will never be able to walk in the forgiveness required for true community without prayer. And note once again the community nature of the very prayer. It is not, “Forgive me my sins,” but, “Forgive us our sins.” I am instructed here to pray that the Father will forgive our brothers and sisters in Christ the very sins they are committing in our midst; that He will forgive the sins they have even committed against me.
Life in Christ’s community of sinners being restored creates a continual need for both forgiving and being forgiven. The Lord’s instruction to pray about forgiveness this way, may well explain why Bonhoeffer said, “Prayer is the heart of the Christian life.” There is no Christian life apart from forgiveness, and we must pray in order that a life of giving and receiving forgiveness becomes a reality.
Live the Gospel,