"And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." (Matthew 6:12)Interesting that Jesus uses the word "debt". These debts that we have been forgiven and which we forgive seem to be different than those we owe Mastercard. Here is the Greek word that is translated debts: opheilēma ( ὀφείλημα) ... it means "that which is owed, a debt". So what is Jesus talking about? This week I shared about forgiveness with about 20 guys at our local jail. I asked them these questions:
What is the debt that we owe each other?I told them that the debt is love. We were created to love both God and man - it is our debt to our Creator and to each other. For many in that jail, and I imagine many of you, love is a difficult topic. When you think about your childhood you do not think about an environment of love. Your childhood may have been a difficult one where you did not experience love from your parents or your siblings. You know, love has always been an issue. Even at the dawn of humanity the issue of love came to bear.
What is the debt that we are told to forgive?
And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" And he said, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?" He said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground. (Genesis 4:8-10)Cain did not understand his debt to his brother Abel. He did not understand that he was indeed "his brother's keeper" - he owed a debt of love to his brother ... he was created to care about Abel and be a blessing to him. So it is with us. In some sense, we become who we were created to be when we love. We are most like Jesus when we love. When we forgive our debtors we come to grips with those who should have loved us and did not. When we pray the Lord's prayer we acknowledge our debt to love God and to love each other. We also forgive (other's debt of love) in the same way that God has forgiven us our debt to love Him.
The ultimate confession of love was whispered by Jesus after He was nailed to the cross:
"Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)Given this, how can we not forgive - how can we not pay this debt of love?