Sep 14, 2015

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As We Forgive

As We Forgive

“And whenever you pray, do not be like hypocrites…and forgive us our debts, AS we have forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:5,12)

capital letters added for emphasis this and next verse.

“Forgive us our sins, FOR we also forgive everyone who sins against us” (Luke 11:4)

I wonder if we know what we are saying when we say either of these two versions of the Lord’s Prayer? There have been times when I have chosen not to pray this prayer until things have changed in my heart: Why is this? Let’s consider what this part of the Lord’s Prayer is actually asking. When we are experiencing an unforgiving spirit and yet we pray thus, we are actually asking God to retain our sins against us and not forgive our sins. In Matthew’s version the word “as” is a comparative, and in this context it means “to the same extent as” or “only in proportion as.” The word “debts”(opheilema in Greek) is the best English word we have available for the concept of “failing to do our duty.” Of course, no one can perfectly do his duty to both God and man. In Luke’s version the word “for” is an assertion that we have already forgiven everyone who sins (hamartias in Greek) against us. Before we can wisely pray this prayer we must first realise that we are debtors/sinners. If we have not fully forgiven, and we pray thus, we are hypocrites. Ecclesiastes 5:2 says, “Be not rash with your mouth, and let not your heart be hasty to utter a word before God.” We can also see from these two versions of the prayer why some people pray forgive us our sins and other people pray forgive us our debts, depending on whether they base their prayer on Matthew or Luke. Let me sum up by saying that many people blithely assume that the Lord’s Prayer is a child’s prayer and treat it as such, but it is clearly not.

Discussion Questions for Bible Study: 1) How does the statement, “but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your debts” affect your understanding of the situation? ; and 2) We have been taught that forgiveness is not granted on the grounds of our forgiving others first, but rather on the grounds of grace. Luther goes further and claims we are forgiven by “grace alone.’” At the risk of being controversial (but I hope to make for a stimulating discussion), I bring you an argument made by William Barclay in his commentary of Matthew (pages 179-180). Barclay says such was NOT Jesus’ own view of the matter: For instance, at least part of the teaching of the parable of the talents is that faithful service will receive a reward (Matt. 25:14-30); for those who bear persecution without bitterness, their reward will be great in heaven (Matt. 5: 12). He writes in that “the parable of the Last Judgement the plain teaching is that there is reward and punishment in accordance with our reaction to the needs of our fellow man.”(Matt 25:31-46). Add to this mix the Apostle James’ statement, “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26) Can we, or how can we, reconcile Jesus’ teachings in the above parables (and others too) with the standard teaching we have received? Always being respectful of differing views, please discuss.
Written by Heather Whitehouse, ON 1st VP/Chaplain, The King’s Daughters and Sons, August, 2015

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