Divorce from us our debts in the same manner that we divorce the sins of our debtors -Matthew 6:12
Sorry, this one is hard to translate, and I am still crap at Greek.
It is particularly hard to imagine living by.
This is one of those passages where Jesus tells us to ask for forgiveness in the way that we forgive others. This both excites and frightens me as I contemplate it, and it blows the idea that forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same sky-high in my mind.
Jesus pulls a double-emphasis on this one in the very same passage, and it is the only one that he drumbeats a repetition about in verses 14-15
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (using the ESV from here on out so you don’t have to put up with my crappy Greek)
Um. Gulp. This idea gets picked up again a little bit later in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:2
For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.
And this bounces off the same idea in the Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12
So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets
In terms of context, these verses are all facing up in my Bible at the same time, on the same page, same time, audience, and speaker.
On one hand, I love God’s forgiveness and mercy. But Jesus repeatedly ties it in with my own reaction to others.
I’m a Lutheran, and in the ELCA (which I fled) and the LCMS (where I found refuge) we sort of gloss this over with a Cheap Grace block.
Am I saying that if I do not forgive someone God will not forgive me? Well, Jesus is. Does this make forgiveness of others a Good Work that I need to do in order to obtain salvation? Therefore I am saved by Grace through Faith and the Good Work of how I Forgive Others?
I don’t freaking know. But I don’t know how I could ever pull them APART. This passage is one very similar to the passage in James about Good Works and Faith that I cannot really separate in any practical application.
And my childhood love was the physical sciences, so my theology always heads to where the metal hits the meat of life.
PERHAPS I can have a saving faith and not forgive someone who sins against me, but the Bible has some dire warnings beyond the verses that I have already shared. Martin Luther says in his Large Catechism:
But there is here attached a necessary, yet consolatory addition: As we forgive. He has promised that we shall be sure that everything is forgiven and pardoned, yet in the manner that we also forgive our neighbor. 94] For just as we daily sin much against God, and yet He forgives everything through grace, so we, too, must ever forgive our neighbor who does us injury, violence, and wrong, shows malice toward us, etc. 95] If, therefore, you do not forgive, then do not think that God forgives you; but if you forgive, you have this consolation and assurance, that you are forgiven in heaven, not on account of your forgiving, for God forgives freely and without condition, out of pure grace, because He has so promised, as the Gospel teaches, but in order that He may set this up for our confirmation and assurance for a sign alongside of the promise which accords with this prayer, Luke 6:37: Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. Therefore Christ also repeats it soon after the Lord’s Prayer, and says, Matt. 6:14: For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, etc. (Courtesy of bookofconcord.org )
Jesus’ warning and Martin Luther’s statement of necessity are not alone. In the Didache, a book of the teachings of the early church, no one who had not reconciled with their fellow Christian was permitted to take communion! The closer you get to the original writing the more seriously people take this teaching.
Freaking terrifying, and there is an acid test.
Look at what you say to the person who has wronged you. Put those words in Jesus’ mouth to you. Where do you end up? If your words are words of grace, love, kindness, and fellowship, then you end up in Heaven, don’t you? If your words have any sort of variation on “depart from me you evildoer” then you tread on really treacherous ground, because those were the precise words used by Christ to expel the damned to hell.
I will expand on this and dig in to other New Testament passages on forgiveness and its practical application in my next post. There is simply too much to say on this one.