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Today’s Lectio Divina: At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?”Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven. The Kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn’t pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market. The poor wretch threw himself at the king’s feet and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt. The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, ‘Pay up. Now!’The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ But he wouldn’t do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid. When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king. The king summoned the man and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?’ The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt. And that’s exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn’t forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy.” Matthew 18: 21-35 (MsgB)
As I mentioned earlier in this blog series, growing up in a Presbyterian church, I was accustomed to using the words, debts and debtors, when reciting The Lord’s Prayer. It was only after I met my wife-to-be, Sandy when I was introduced to her Lutheran version of The Prayer where trespasses and those who trespass against us were used. Today, more modernized versions of The Prayer eliminate both sets of words, inserting…
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Sadly, we Christians get so wrapped up with the words used, arguing over which phrase best represents what Jesus was actually saying, we fail to realize the deeper truth that the Master was trying to make.
You see, in Americanized Christianity, where our focus is primarily on our personal relationship between God and our own individual life, we overlook Jesus’ great emphasis on the importance of community and how it affects just about everything we say and do in life.
In our westernized culture, we’ve taken Jesus’ first phrase here, forgive us our debts, and placed it into a separate compartment; a sterile one-on-one act of repentance where 1) I confess my sins to God, 2) Jesus, who died on the cross for those sins forgives me, and 3) I go on with life with the freedom of knowing I’m forgiven. Hallelujah!
But if we read the entire text, connecting Jesus’ second phrase, as we forgive our debtors, with the first, we now have an entirely different situation; one that runs parallel to the parable of the unforgiving servant, found in today’s reading from Matthew’s Gospel.
And to be quite honest, folks, this equation where God forgives my debts to the same degree or using the same measuring spoon that I dish out forgiveness to others is one frightening truth most of us don’t want to face!
But, here’s the truth.
If indeed God, our Loving Father, is as forgiving as He is portrayed by Jesus in the Gospels, (see the Prodigal Son story in Luke, for example) then you and I, who claim to be followers of Christ, should hopefully desire to be as forgiving as the One who has forgiven us, correct?
Which brings me to the fact that, quite honestly, in my flesh, I’m screwed.
Quite honestly, I’m not all that gracious and forgiving some of the times, are you?
So, what’s a person to do with this phrase?
Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
My first suggestion is this.
Let’s stop reciting this prayer in such a way that we let it roll off our tongues without even thinking about what we’re actually praying. Let’s slow this thing down a bit and even stop right here and sit with Jesus for a moment, allowing Him to show us where our unforgiveness is actually stopping up the flow of God’s grace in our lives.
Secondly, might I suggest that you and I, once we’ve taken the time to review where our lack of forgiveness is getting in the way, we humble ourselves, readily confessing our inability to forgive, asking the Holy Spirit to give us the gift of forgiveness for those areas where our flesh just can’t.
You see, I believe that true forgiveness, the ability to forgive the unforgivable, is a gracelet from God, a gift or fruit of the Holy Spirit that allows us to let go and let God in ways we could never do on our own.
So, in that light, would you like to pray with me?
My Prayer: Alright Jesus, I confess that I’ve not wanted to connect the phrase, as I forgive those who trespass against me with the phrase, forgive me my trespasses. It’s obvious from reading your parable on the unforgiving servant that there is a divine connection between God’s forgiveness for me and my ability to forgive others. So now, Lord, I come to you in complete honesty, telling You that there are numerous situations around me this day where I’m finding it next to impossible to forgive. Holy Spirit, I ask you to indwell and empower me with the supernatural gracelet of forgiveness, so that I might be free of my bitterness, anger, and inability to forgive. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My Questions To Ponder: So, where am I holding onto unforgiveness today? Is it toward myself? Is it toward others? Are there situations around me that are so grave that I just can’t find the grace to forgive? If so, what might it look like for me to confess that truth to Jesus, asking Him to give me the grace to forgive, so that forgiveness becomes a gift to me instead of feeling I’m the one who needs to make it happen?
So, what is God speaking to you as you ponder on The Lord’s Prayer?
Over a period of four weeks (3 sessions per week), we will take you on a journey (12-sessions) we call Contemplating The Prayer: Pondering Anew The Prayer of Jesus. We suggest you bookmark our blog series homepage to keep all the writings in one place for your future reference. Take note that each blog session begins with a short scripture reading. My suggestion is that you don’t hurry through, or skip the text, but treat it as a Lectio Divina reading where you slow down and sit a bit with God’s Word, allowing it to penetrate and influence you as you read. Each session also ends with a few thoughts to ponder on. I look forward to hearing some of your insight as we journey together!
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