Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Teach us to pray, part 38: Forgiving like God Forgives

And He said to them, "When you pray, say: ' Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 'Give us each day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'" (Luke 11:2-4 NASB)

The issue of forgiveness is so vitally important to the life of a disciple that we are going to look at this subject in a bit more depth. In the Model Prayer recorded in Matthew's gospel, Jesus prayed, "forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors." In both accounts, the importance of forgiving others in order to have our own sins forgiven is clear. The problem is that I, of course, want my own sins forgiven promptly. The sins of others toward me, however, tend to loom larger than my own, and I am not as quick to forgiveness as I want God to be toward me. This should not be.

If I want the forgiveness of God, I need to forgive like He forgives. A brief look at the way God forgives draws a sharp contrast between my own tendency toward a form of forgiveness and His utterly complete forgiveness.

1) God forgives promptly. If we confess our sins, He forgives us. He doesn't make us wallow in shame or beg repeatedly to wear Him down for forgiveness. When we confess, He forgives. We should offer that same promptness in forgiveness. (1 John 1:9)
2) God forgives completely. He removes our sin "as far as the east is from the west". (Psalm 103:12) and sweeps them away like a cloud. "Isaiah 44:22)
3) God forgives permanently. God forgives and forgets. He blots out our sins and remembers them no more, rather than bringing them back up over and over again. He does not continued to rehearse our sin to keep them memory fresh. (Isaiah 43:25)

If God forgives promptly, completely, and permanently, then I, too, should forgive promptly, completely, and permanently. We will look at "forgiving and forgetting" in more detail tomorrow, but Scripture makes it clear that I cannot hold on to the hurts of others if I want to have forgiveness myself. 

Corrie ten Boom said that forgiveness is an act of the will. Martin Luther King described forgiveness as an attitude. "Forgiveness is not an occasional act. It is a permanent attitude." When there is something to forgive, I must choose to forgive it. I must also choose not to rehearse it over and over again, which requires that I take every thought captive. If thoughts of the offense recur, my job is to recall that offense only as forgiven and move on.

Forgiveness is a choice. God chooses to forgive us, and so should we forgive others. This Holy Week, we celebrate the forgiveness purchased for us on the cross by Christ. As we thank Him for the price He paid, let us also forgive those who have offended us, and do it just as thoroughly, just as promptly, and just as permanently as God has forgiven us.