John A. Braun
Forgiveness! Jesus wanted us to pray for the forgiveness we need in our daily lives. How often we stray from God’s will. Our words, our thoughts, and our actions always seem to define what it means to miss the mark. So, in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer, we pray for forgiveness.
Possessing God’s forgiveness by faith is one of our core needs. In this prayer, it comes after we ask for “daily bread.” We understand our need for daily bread to live in this life and serve God and others. But an even greater need is the forgiveness that Jesus has accomplished for us all. We need that forgiveness if we are going to stand before him when we no longer need daily bread.
So humbly, with each repetition of this prayer, we come for the forgiveness Jesus has achieved by his pain and blood. At those times when we lose the comfort and confidence in the gospel of forgiveness, the words of this petition turn our attention away from what is inside our hearts and to what is inside God’s heart—unconditional love in Christ and forgiveness. We need the consolation that we are indeed forgiven children of God.
The forgiveness we possess by faith transforms us and empowers us. It awakens in us a desire to thank God. It moves us to desire to please our God for the forgiveness Christ has paid for so dearly. A part of that transformation is the willingness to forgive as we have been forgiven.
This petition does not limit the forgiveness of our sins to only when we will forgive others. That would only drive us all to despair. No, God’s forgiveness is freely given before we can think, say, or do anything good—yes, before we can forgive. It’s by grace; there is no condition on God’s forgiveness. And it transforms us, bending our attitudes to forgive others rather than hold a grudge or seek revenge.
I think this prayer is an essential part of our lives together as believers in his church. How often do family feuds divide the work of the church? How often do the real and imagined insults and slights color our attitudes and sour our work together? How often do decisions of the council, committee, or the pastor create not just differences of opinion but real animosity and bitterness? The apostle Paul warns, “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Galatians 5:15). He advised earlier, “Serve one another humbly in love” (v. 13). Forgiving each other is as important in the church as it is in marriage. When personalities, opinions, and visions of what is best clash, forgiveness is required.
The wonder of it all is that we are all forgiven by a gracious God. Jesus provides not only the motivation but also a pure example for us to follow. Jesus endured pain and suffering at the hands of sinful humans. We may not have been there, but our sins caused the scourging, the insults, and the mockery. But Jesus did not retaliate. He forgave. He said, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34). When we grasp what Jesus endured to forgive us, then how can we refuse to forgive others—especially other believers in his church?
When you are tempted to hold a grudge and withhold forgiveness, think of Jesus. Who has inflicted as much harm and misery on you as we have all inflicted on Jesus? So we pray, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”
John Braun is executive editor of the Forward in Christ magazine.
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Author: John A. Braun
Volume 105, Number 1
Issue: January 2018
Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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