Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Lord's prayer

The Lord's prayer in Matthew 6 is inexhaustible in its depth and meaning. About the time I feel I understand this short prayer I am amazed to see something new and wonderful in its deep simplicity. I once preached a series of sermons on the Lord's prayer and I gave out peanuts to the entire congregation and asked thiem how many things might be hidden in a peanut. Little by little the light went on in their minds as the remembered that George Washington Carver found over 300 uses for the simple peanut. So it is with the Lord's prayer.

I awakened this morning thinking about the phrase "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." I was reminded of the story Jesus told of the king who forgave one of his servants an enormous an unpayable debt. That servant went out a forgiven man and promptly tried to collect a small debt from some poor servant of his. When the king heard about this he turned the servant he had forgiven over to the torturers so he would learn to forgive as he was forgiven. Obviously, Jesus' use of the word "torturers" was meant to let us know God takes this forgiving thing very serious.

As I considered my track record as a forgiver, it suddenly dawned on me what "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors" might mean for my life. Each time I am offended and have someone to forgive, I am looking at someone who has done to me what I have already done to God. As I reviewed in my mind a few of the people who have hurt me deeply, I asked this question "Have I ever done something like that to God?" I was shocked as I could see my need to forgive them as I had been forgiven by God.
I kept doing this forgiving test and I failed to find a single offender in my life that I could not identify as sinning against me in a way that I had already sinned against God.

I had to simply reduce the actions committed against me to simple terms like "disrespect", "distortion of reality", "failure to give credit", "anger at me without a cause" etc. and I could quickly see that my offender and I were no different except for the fact that I had not done something to him or her. Yet, I had done it to God and He had forgiven me when I asked for forgiveness.

So, I must pray every day this simple phrase "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors" because it is in being offended
I can see most clearly how God has felt when I offended Him. I can also see in this process of being forgiven and forgiving the only way we will ever get out of this mess we humans live in.

The torturers are needed because the alternative of no forgiveness is much worse. The torturers have worked on me from time to time until I finally was humbled enough to see that I, too, am a forgiven sinner. I can't say I liked the torturers, but I am glad they came to me with just enough pain to open my eyes back toward God and away from my offender.

If your enemy came to you today and asked for forgiveness would you be as generous as God was with you? Would I be?
The realilty is, I have no choice but to eventually forgive. God will not let my resistance be the final word. HIs character and grace will be the final word and that word is forgiveness for all of us if we will but ask.

Are you having a hard time forgiving someone? Stop looking at them and look at yourself then back at God. When you do the words "forgive us our debts" will take on deep meaning and move you toward your offender with the words. "I forgive you because I have been forgiven." When we have done this about 490 times we will get the hang of it!

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