Forgive us our debts- as we forgive those indebted to us. Luke 11:4.
At the primary school I attended we voiced the Lord’s Prayer by rote every single day, which is probably the experience of most here in Ireland, north and south. But surely if we ever get to grips with the deep meaning of these words, our lives and society would be utterly transformed.
In this prayer, Jesus reminded His disciples that they had a Father to pray to who would provide for their every need; past, present and future.
This is underscored by the words “Forgive us our debts as we forgive those indebted to us”.
Forgiveness is a thorny issue, not least in a post-conflict society like Northern Ireland. But it is very clear that the New Testament connects the receiving of forgiveness from God with extending of forgiveness to others.
In pastoral ministry with people who have both sinned grievously against others, and been grievously sinned against themselves, I have discovered that this issue is a non-negotiable in experiencing spiritual and emotional freedom.
But we must not be trite and insensitive when approaching this issue and there is little space here to deal with all the many implications of walking in forgiveness.
What does it really mean to forgive? How and when do we do it? What does forgiveness mean for justice? We need to sit with these and other related questions and as Christ-followers, we need to look first and foremost to Him for direction.
When Jesus taught about forgiveness he spoke about debts owed between two parties. To forgive is to acknowledge that there is a debt owed but not to force its repayment. However, to forgive is not to call bad good and to call right wrong. To forgive is not to rewrite history but it is to ask Jesus to be Lord over the past, present and future.
Forgiveness is less science and more art, and in crafting this picture we can be confident in the direct tutorship of the Master who could say “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing”.
Father, You are gracious and compassionate. In Christ, You have cancelled the huge debt against our account. Lead us by Your Spirit to be people who can truthfully and freely join with Your Son saying: Father forgive them for they don’t know what they did. Amen