“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15, NKJV).
Do you like being in debt? How does it feel? For some the feeling of “debt” brings guilt, worry and stress. When we owe people money it makes us feel like they have our thumbs on us, just pressing down until we pay. We feel enslaved to them until the debt is released. What about spiritual debt?
Various words are used for “sin” in the Scriptures and in Matthew 6:12 Jesus uses one often associated with money and banking. He says, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (NKJV). A few chapters later he illustrates forgiveness even more vividly with an example of a “certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants” (Matthew 18:23-35). Clearly, the feeling of “debt” was a good way to describe the situation sin puts us in with God and our fellow man. So, how must we approach the problem of sin in our lives and the lives of those who sin against us?
First of all, we must ask for forgiveness ourselves. Part of the Lord’s prayer is “forgive us our debts” (Matthew 6:12). This petition assumes we are in spiritual debt due to our sins. If we claim to be sinless, “we deceive ourselves” (1 John 1:8). We need to “confess our sins” so we might be forgiven by God who “is faithful and just to forgive us” (1:9).
Secondly, we must forgive those who sin against us. The prayer assumes we are asking God to do exactly what we are willing to do to others—forgive. Jesus says, “...forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors...” (Matthew 6:12). Prayer is not just for our own forgiveness, but that God forgive those who have injured us as well (cp. Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60).
Finally, we must realize God will deal with us as we deal with others. If we are willing to forgive others God will forgive us. If we are unwilling to forgive, we block our own forgiveness. God views our request to be forgiven as hypocritical if we are unwilling to do the same for others. So, Paul encourages, “And be kind...forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
Nobody likes the burden of debt. But, how wonderful it is to be debt-free. The burden is gone. The debt is released. The shackles are broken and a newfound freedom is enjoyed. Sin is remembered “no more” (Hebrews 8:12). Forgive and begin to live the life Jesus can give to you and to all!