And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors. [Matthew 6:12 (RSV)]
Forgive us as we forgive others. [Matthew 6:12 (GW)]
Various plans for debt relief have been in the news and all over the internet recently. It may be tough to pay back those college loans but being in debt was much tougher in Biblical times. Back then, if someone was unable to pay a debt, he could be thrown into prison or have his family sold into slavery. Jesus told a parable about the forgiveness of debts. When the king decided to bring his financial records up to date, all those who owed him money were brought to him. One servant owed him ten thousand talents and was unable to pay. When the King ordered that he, his family, and everything he owned should be sold to pay the obligation, the man begged the king’s forgiveness; the king showed compassion and generously forgave his servant’s debt.
This servant then went to a fellow worker who owed him only one hundred denarii and demanded immediate payment. His co-worker begged for a little more time, but the man insisted on immediate repayment and had the debtor thrown into prison. Although the king had offered the first servant mercy and forgiveness, this same man was unwilling to offer mercy and forgiveness to someone else. When the king learned of this, he had the unforgiving debtor thrown into prison to be tortured until he’d repaid the original debt.
Jesus then advised His disciples that the same thing would happen if they refused to forgive their brothers and sisters. If they denied forgiveness to others, forgiveness would be denied to them.
It is so much easier to ask God for His forgiveness of our offenses than to offer that same forgiveness to those who have hurt or offended us. God, however, doesn’t hold grudges and Jesus didn’t die on the cross for a select few; He died for all. We are all sinners and our debt was paid by Christ. A refusal to forgive others is a refusal to acknowledge our own sinful natures. It becomes easier to forgive others when we remember how much God (and other people) have already forgiven us.