AN IN-DEPTH STUDY OF
“FORGIVE US OUR SINS”
In this model prayer Jesus gives only one short line to the wants and desires of our physical selves. The rest has to do with our spiritual selves made in the image of God. The prayer is to help us imitate the Father and prepare ourselves to dwell with Him in eternity when this short life is over. God is Spirit and that Spirit is love and mercy. For this reason Jesus is praying that we might develop the qualities of love and mercy to fit ourselves to dwell with God in eternity.
In the Sermon on the Mount, one of the fundamental characteristics of Christianity was, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will obtain mercy”. In the prayer, Jesus uses the same principle when He says, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”. Someone asked this question: “If someone consistently continues to abuse and mistreat me, am I supposed to continue forgiving him?” I think we need to look carefully at the statement Jesus made. He said we should ask God to forgive us as we forgive others. God is not asking us to encourage wrong doing by just shrugging it off. God’s forgiveness is based on our repentance. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus promised relief only to those who mourned. Only those who are sorry they have sinned against God can expect relief. On the day of Pentecost, Peter told those who asked how they could get rid of the guilt for their sins to “Repent and accept Jesus Christ”. God forgives the penitent.
When we talk about someone sinning against us, what we should mean is doing something hurtful or abusive against us with evil intent. We should not mean someone who insults our ego by not giving us the attention we think we deserve or the appreciation our ego desires. In that instance we are resenting something we should not have wanted in the first place. I am afraid it is just this kind of thing that most of us hold against other people when we should be working on our own attitude instead. This is not what Jesus was talking about when He said we should ask God to forgive us as we forgive those who sin against us. Nor was he talking about those who dare to differ with us in matters of taste or standards of behavior. In those instances, the sin, if they are wrong, is against God’s standards, not against us.
The things we should take into consideration are the conditions and circumstances of the offender’s life and give him the benefit of the doubt if those things cause his behavior to be offensive to us. Loving my neighbor means using every possible means to excuse and help him to be right. It means assuming the best of him under the circumstances of his life. It is a good thing a loving God judges us with mercy and understanding instead of just coldly on the basis of our overt behavior.
One more thing I would like for us to consider: How much of our judgement of others is because of their actual behavior, and how many times do we condemn others to make us feel better and more righteous ourselves. If we do it so we will look better by comparison, we violate the entire principle of “love thy neighbor as thyself”.
All of the above must be considered, as the Bible assures me God does in judging me, before I feel compelled to judge those who sin against me. Jesus, when reviled, reviled not again. He didn’t get even, or exert His ego into the situation. This does not eliminate the prayer of Jesus but it places the responsibility upon us to treat the offender as my neighbor, no matter who he is, and to do all I can to help him be right, as the Samaritan helped the unfortunate man on the Jericho road.
We are still obligated to act like a Christian, like Jesus would, and pray that God will treat us the same way we treat our fellowman. To pray this prayer thoughtlessly is actually asking God to treat us with the same standards that we treat others. If we do not love our neighbor and want the best for him, we cut ourselves off from the love of God, who loves us and wants the best for us.