It is not until one feels convicted of wrongdoing that there is any sense of need for forgiveness. We should come to our Father keenly sensitive to sin and selfishness in our lives. The very recognition and admission that we are debtors and trespassers produce within the human heart a genuine humility that opens our whole being to the presence and Person of God Himself.
God made it abundantly clear to us that his attitude toward anyone who sought forgiveness was one of immediate reconciliation. God our Father never holds anyone at arm’s length who shows the slightest inclination to turn toward Him in honest and open need of forgiveness.
The outstanding, eternal debt which all men of all time own their heavenly Father is a debt of gratitude and of love for the price paid for our forgiveness. It is in the awareness of the amazing mercy and goodness of our God that the best we have to offer is the simple admission that we are debtors to the grace and love of Him who loves us with an everlasting love.
In all of our Lord’s Prayer, by far the most difficult phrase is, “As we forgive our debtors.”
It is significant that newer translations of the New Testament put this passage into the past tense rather than the present. In other words, what Christ said, was this: Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Do we have a clean conscience in our relationship with others? Do I harbour old hates in my heart? Do I allow resentments to rankle beneath the surface of my life? These are very probing questions. Our Lord was always emphasizing the fact that our inner attitudes were more important than our outward actions. It was His assertion that our Father in heaven knew our attitudes and rated them far above our outward appearance.
Why do most of us have trouble forgiving those who have wronged us? Why do we allow bitterness, hostility, and antagonism to cripple our characters, twist our personalities, and blight our relationship with others? All of this leads to enormous tension, stress, and darkness within.
Beneath all our difficulties in forgiving others lies the foundational fact of human pride. We insist on our rights; we defend ourselves; we lay claim to our privileges; we hold fast to our positions. All such self-esteem and self-preservation come at a very high cost. It cuts us off from others. It makes us quick to find fault, yet so sensitive to our own hurts.
How can we get over this? The answer lies again in coming to Christ and seeing something of what He endured for us at Calvary. Calvary stands eternally as God’s demonstration to us of total selflessness. It was no small thing that our Lord, who was God in human form, should be willing to humble Himself, make Himself of no reputation, take upon His Person our wrongs, pride, and perverseness. All of this He did without murmuring or complaining.
The degree to which I am able and willing to forgive others is a clear indication of the extent to which I have personally experienced God my Father’s forgiveness for me.
An excerpt from A Layman Looks at the Lord’s Prayer by W. Phillip Keller