Forgiven to Forgive
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Matthew 6:12
suggested further reading: Matthew 18:21–35
The forgiveness from debts that we ask for in prayer is inconsistent with the way unbelievers try to purchase freedom from what they owe to others. For the creditor who receives payment for what is owed to him does not truly forgive those debts. Rather, a person forgives when he willingly and generously departs from his just claim and frees the debtor of all obligations.
If debts are freely forgiven us, all compensations disappear. There is no other meaning possible in this verse, for God grants the pardon of those who owe him debts by removing the condemnation that they deserve.
Christ adds the condition as we forgive our debtors so that we may not presume to approach God for forgiveness unless we are pure and free from all resentment against others. Yet the forgiveness that we ask of God does not depend on the forgiveness that we grant to others. Rather, the purpose of Christ here is to teach us how to forgive the offenses that have been committed against us. When we forgive, we give evidence of the impression of God’s seal on us and ratify confidence in our own forgiveness.
Christ’s intent is not to point out the reason for our forgiveness but to remind us of how we should cherish others when we want to be reconciled to God. Certainly, if the Spirit of God reigns in our hearts, every kind of ill will and revenge ought to be banished in us. The Spirit is the witness of our adoption (Rom. 8:16), so forgiving others is a mark of grace that distinguishes us as children of God rather than strangers. The name debtors is given, not to those who owe us money or any other service, but to those who are in debt to us because of offenses that they have committed against us.
for meditation: When people wrong us, how easy—even satisfying—it is to hold the offense against them. Our anger rises if they do not come to us, begging for forgiveness. But if we hold on to that debt, how can we ask God to forgive the offenses we continually commit against him? When we consider the amazing, forgiving grace we find in God through his Son’s satisfaction for our innumerable sins, how can we not readily and cheerfully forgive others when their offenses amount to the smallest fraction of our offenses toward God?