Jesus shared a story (parable) about forgiving others.
Jesus’ illustration was prompted by Peter, who asked if forgiving someone seven times was enough; Peter thought seven times was generous. Jesus upped the figure considerably, saying seventy-seven times. But we don’t take this amount literally, instead understanding that Jesus really meant we need to forgive others “more times than we can count” or “without limit.”
Jesus’ story, however, takes the idea of forgiveness to another level. A man, who owed a huge debt he could never repay, begged for mercy, for more time to make payment. But instead of receiving additional time, the debt was forgiven.
But then the man threatened someone who owed him a tiny bit of money. No mercy was given; no forgiveness was offered. He withheld from others what had been given to him.
Because of the man’s selfishness and not treating others as he was treated, his debt was reinstated and he was thrown into prison and tortured. Our fate will be no different if we don’t forgive others.
We, who have been forgiven much by God, need to likewise forgive others. The risk of withholding forgiveness is too great.
In my post Be Careful What You Pray I mention a line in the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
Different groups have different wording for this line. There are three I’ve run into:
1) “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” The word debt, conjures up thoughts of loans and money. That limits what Jesus meant and isn’t helpful.
2) “Forgive our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” The word trespass evokes walking uninvited on someone’s property. That’s not helpful either. (However, the dictionary gives a broader understanding for both these words.)
3) “Forgive our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” To me, sin is the word that conveys the full impact of this phrase, but I understand some people are put off by that word.
I recently heard a fourth version, which I like for its clarity:
4) “Forgive us for the wrongs we have done, as we have forgiven those who have wronged us.”
That connects with me. I hope one of these four versions connects with you. Now we just need to pray it — and do it.
The Bible says, “Let no debt remain outstanding.” That is sage advice for any time, but especially in these troubled economic conditions. Debt, in general, and bad debt, specifically, has gotten our economy into trouble, threatening to hold us down for the long term.
However, that’s not really what this verse is talking about. You see, I stopped too soon. Had I continued, I would have read, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another.”
Wow, that puts things in a different perspective. Do you have a debt of love? That is one debt that can never be repaid. We can — and should — be making regular payments, but paying it off is never truly possible.
We “owe” love to each other. Let’s make sure that paying back that debt — every day.