Forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. “This is a hard teaching. The prayer for forgiveness is the only petition in the Lord’s Prayer that comes with a condition attached. If we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven.” Philip Ryken
It is difficult to swallow that my personal forgiveness is contingent upon my willingness to forgive others, yet several times throughout the New Testament there are scriptures which state the same. In both the book of Matthew and Mark we are encouraged to forgive. “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15 ESV) “…whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25 ESV)
When praying The Lord’s Prayer, I find myself wanting to adjust the words to my own liking. Something like, “Forgive my sins as I would like for them to be forgiven.” or “Forgive my sins in spite of my unwillingness to forgive others.” are more like what I want to plea. On a good day, I might even pray, “Forgive my sins and help me to forgive others the way you do.” But rarely do I rush past that contingency phrase without wondering if I really am in agreement.
Quite honestly forgiving is a difficult task. It requires self discipline and willpower, with a side helping of perspective. Although logically we can understand that we should forgive others because God forgave us, that is easier said than done. But the mere fact that Jesus taught us to pray in this manner encourages us that forgiveness is possible. Andrew Murray reminds us that forgiveness is a necessity. “As bread is the first need of the body, so forgiveness for the soul, And the provision for the one is as sure as for the other.” Forgiveness is a necessary decision, and is a muscle that must be exercised. Forgiveness is not contingent upon our feelings, nor if the person deserves forgiveness. Forgiveness hinges on the fact that “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, NIV) Forgiveness is a gratitude response for all that Christ has done for us.
I like what Philip Ryken has to say in a blog presented on Ligioner’s website, “There are still some things we owe to God, however — not out of debt, but out of gratitude — and one of those things is forgiveness.” He goes on to say, “From this petition we learn that we are not the only ones in debt. We have debtors of our own, people who owe us something for what they have done to us. And we are called to forgive them.”
It is important to note that Salvation is a gift of God through His grace alone. Salvation is not dependent on works. “But now, having been forgiven, by the grace of God we are also able to forgive. Indeed, our ability to forgive is one of the surest signs of our having been forgiven. Those who are truly forgiven, truly forgive.” (Philip Ryken)
Phillip Ryken goes on to point out that, “Giving such forgiveness can be very costly, and the more someone has hurt us, the harder it is to forgive. Yet forgiveness also brings great joy, not only to the forgiven, but especially to the forgiver.”
The bottom line is this, Forgiveness is not only a command, but also a great gift. We forgive, because He first forgave us, in doing so we don’t just bless others, but we too are blessed.
The Andrew Murray Collection: 21 Classic Works