Thursday, March 12, 2009

March 12- Forgive Us Our Debts

3/12- The Lord’s Prayer- 5th Petition- Forgive us Our Debts as We Forgive Our Debtors
"Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another- just as God in Christ has forgiven you." Ephesians 4:32

Calvin: He calls sins “debts” because we owe penalty for them, and we could in no way satisfy it unless we were released by this forgiveness. This pardon comes of his free mercy, by which he himself generously wipes out these debts, exacting no payment from us but making satisfaction to himself by his own mercy in Christ, who once for all gave himself as a ransom [cf. Romans 3:24]. Therefore those who trust that God is satisfied with their own or others’ merits, and that by such satisfaction forgiveness of sins is paid for and purchased, share not at all in this free gift. And while they call upon God according to this form, they do nothing but subscribe to their own accusation, and even seal their condemnation by their own testimony. For they confess they are debtors unless they are released by the benefit of forgiveness, which they still do not accept but rather spurn, while they thrust their merits and satisfactions upon God. For thus they do not entreat his mercy but call his judgment.” (III.20.44)

Why do Presbyterians so stalwartly pray “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” whereas everyone else prays, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us?” Calvin calls them “debts” because we owe a penalty for them. Christ came and paid our debt- our ransom by his death on the cross.
Those who think they are not in need of forgiveness are wrong and are close to hardening their hearts. I remember once I met a fellow who had just bought a huge house at the beach. I met him at a party given by one of my church members. He told me that he “had always been wealthy, and was a Harvard man, and that he didn’t have any need for church or for forgiveness.” I was shocked at his pride and his boldness. After thinking about this a lot, I really began to feel pity for him. One day, he will get sick, or perhaps he will get old, or perhaps he will lose a loved one (maybe to his pride), and he will not have God in his life to help sustain him.
We also need to forgive others because we have been forgiven, and in order to continue to be forgiven. In an amazing statement- right after he gives his disciples the Lord’s Prayer Jesus says, “For it you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14,15). This is the only statement after the Lord’s Prayer- and it seems to be a re-emphasis of his teaching on prayer. Of all the petitions, this is the one (forgiveness ) that is brought up again. Forgiveness by God and forgiveness of others is so very important for us. Without it, love dies, hearts are hardened, and relationships broken.
So for Lent, let’s find someone to forgive today!
Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for forgiveness. Thank you for dying on the cross for me. Help me to forgive others because you have forgiven me. Amen.

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