Q. What does the fifth petition mean?
A. “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” means: Because of Christ’s blood, do not hold against us, poor sinners that we are, any of the sins we do or the evil that constantly clings to us (1). Forgive us just as we are fully determined, as evidence of your grace in us, to forgive our neighbors (2).
Read: (1) Ps. 51:1-7; 143:2; Rom. 8:1; 1 John 2:1; (2) 2 Matt. 6:14-15; 18:21-35.
I am so angry! I am livid! I could explode! Sister, this is not a drill. It is the reality of my heart right this moment. My blood is boiling! And if I told you the story of all this mess you would most likely see my point and understand me, justify my anger and maybe even feel this anger yourself. Unfortunately this is not what God calls us to. I am struggling in my heart. So as we study question 125 of The Heidelberg Catechism I ask for your prayers.
I talked to a lot of people about my heart situation. All pointed me back to Christ except for one person who told me that I was in the right and that it would be weak to back off and forgive. The reality sister is that our society doesn’t like weakness. We are told that to be weak is to loose. That weaknesses are to be exploited. And that to forgive even when you are in the right is to be weak. So forgiveness is not something that most people in our society will be excited about. And yet they are missing a huge point. As one of my teacher says, forgiveness is not a feeling. You don’t forgive because someone deserves it. You forgive because in your desire to be like Christ, you simply extend grace.
But to extend grace freely we need to understand the undeserving grace that has been given to us. Forgiveness or in Greek “aphesis”, means to dismiss, to send away, to release someone from obligation, debt or penalty. God didn’t have to forgive us and yet, in His infinite mercy He showered us with undeserving grace and forgave us in Christ. He should have imprisoned us in hell for all eternity and be called God who is Just. He should have. In fact if He struggled with forgiveness just as I am, we would all be in hell right now. But “the Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 103:8). And so He forgives us in Christ and when by faith we trust in the forgiveness of sins/ trespasses/ debts through Christ, we are enabled in the Holy Spirit to forgive as well. He forgave us willingly so that we too may willingly forgive others and extend the grace that has been extended to us.
Forgiveness is not a feeling but a verb. Something we get to do and are commanded to do. But this is not easy. Our flesh decries the injustice and looks to get even. Our heart doesn’t feel like it is just. And yet if God had acted under that standard, we too wouldn’t deserve forgiveness. We are to forgive seventy seven times seven (Mt. 18:22; Luke 17:3-4). We forgive because we want others to experience the grace that we have experienced so in our actions others will see Christ. See, forgiveness was essential for our salvation and forgiveness is essential for others salvation. In extending grace others are perplex and this gives us an opportunity to point those who haven’t experienced grace to Jesus and it gives us the opportunity to point those who know Jesus back to Him. And sister, this has been true even in my heart. The more someone whom I have wronged forgive me, the more I remember the grace extended to me in Christ and the more conviction I have to extend forgiveness to those who have wronged me.
So dear sister, you may be struggling to forgive others, just like I am. But as my heart shares with you may we understand what is at stake and may we be bold in forgiving, that others too may remember and experience God’s amazing grace.