Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us.” [Matthew [6:12]]
FORGIVE US THE WRONGS WE HAVE DONE
Jesus taught us to pray, “Father…forgive us the wrongs we have done.” As we reflect on the petition for forgiveness, we must consider what Jesus meant by “the wrongs we have done.” The best way to do that is to review the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). But let’s look at one example: Jesus’ teaching on anger (Matthew [5:21]-22). “You have heard that people were told in the past, ‘Do not commit murder; anyone who does will be brought to trial.’ But now I tell you: if you are angry with your brother you will be brought to trial, if you call your brother ‘You good-for-nothing!’ you will be brought before the Council, and if you call your brother a worthless fool you will be in danger of going to the fire of hell.” Jesus ends his teaching on morality with the command, “Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew [5:48]).
Jesus set the bar impossibly high. Not one of us can reach perfection. I’ve never murdered anyone, but I get angry on a regular basis. The idea that we can’t measure up to what God expects of us is uncomfortable, even frightening, so we push it away. I regularly hear people say, “I’m a good person.”
According to Jesus, good isn’t enough.
THE GOOD NEWS
Jesus gave us the bad news about what God expects from us, but he didn’t stop there. The good news of the Model Prayer is that God is willing to take us as we are if we ask: “Forgive us the wrongs we have done.”
AS WE FORGIVE…
Forgiving is hard. When we face the unforgivable, forgiving seems impossible. My experience with the impossible sort of forgiveness is so common, it’s trite: I trusted my husband; he repeatedly broke my trust. Then he blamed me. Finally he told me I left him no choice but to divorce me. I couldn’t believe it. For a long time I lived in a dark fog. When I yearned to return to the sunshine, a friend gave me a copy of Lewis Smedes’ book, The Art of Forgiving: When You Need to Forgive and Don’t Know How. It changed not only my understanding of forgiveness but my life. If you’ve ever had trouble forgiving, find this book and read it.
What Forgiveness Is
Smedes claims our culture has diluted what Jesus means by forgive. He says true forgiveness is reserved for serious wounds, and it’s a process with three stages: we rediscover the humanity of the person who hurt us; we surrender our right to get even; we revise our feelings toward the person who hurt us.
What Forgiveness Is Not
Smedes also counters common misconceptions about forgiveness. First, forgiveness doesn’t happen between two people: it happens inside the person who was wounded. Second, forgiveness does not obligate us to go back to the person who hurt us.
Why We Forgive
Smedes claims two compelling reasons to forgive: we forgive because God forgive us; we forgive because it’s the only way to heal past wounds.
How did you fall short of being perfect yesterday? How has someone you trusted seriously wounded you? How did you forgive? How long did it take?
Father, forgive me for not being the person you want me to be. Help me forgive the wounds I hide in my heart.