Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Forgive us our sins ...

Forgive us our sins, as we forgive who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.

The Lord's prayer is trying to tell us something. Not only the individual petitions but also the order in which they're made shapes us as we pray. The last three petitions of the Lord's prayer seen above are closely connected. "Forgive us our sins" is a prayer that comes naturally, but we must be taught to pray to forgive those who sin against us. Why is the petition of forgiveness next to the petition, "Lead us not into temptation "? It is a common temptation not to forgive those who sin against us. It is a common temptation to see our sins differently than we see the sins of others. It is easy to let the sins of others provoke us to anger, resentment, or grudges. We're told in the Bible to get rid of all bitterness, malice, resentment and rage. These things are the outposts of evil in our hearts and minds. They are the cords with which evil binds us. We are told to throw off and cast behind us all the things that would hinder us from running the race which is set before us. But we find ourselves holding tight to the things which hold us down. I think that if we understood Jesus rightly about forgiving others as we ourselves hope to be forgiven, we would consider that in the case of our own sins we pray for our own forgiveness, and that we would be glad to see those we have wronged standing up and defending us as having done something that was unworthy of us at our better times. I think if we understood Jesus rightly, we would find ourselves in prayer standing before the throne of God and pleading for the forgiveness of those who have wronged us.

Have I gone too far? Consider that this is what Jesus did, and what Jesus is still doing. Consider this is also what the martyr Stephen did when he prayed for God to forgive the murderous mob that he knew would kill him. Consider that Jesus is the one who said we should pray for our enemies and bless those who curse us. When we pray for our enemies, for what should we ask? It is plain that we're called to bless and not to curse. We may ask for the renewal of their minds, for God's peace and truth, and all kinds of other blessings, but we cannot neglect to pray for their forgiveness and to be their intercessor before the Lord God. Especially in the case of those who do not yet pray for themselves, the job may fall to us as the only believers they know to take up their case before God.

I expect we could then laugh at the weakness and disarray of evil in our hearts. Our final petition is that God should deliver us from the evil one. This follows the petitions of forgiveness and safety from temptation. And the refined that this prayer which Jesus gave us, when we pray as he taught us to pray, shapes our hearts so that we are more and more delivered from the evil.


Martin LaBar said...

Not asking, but ". . . pleading for the forgiveness of those who of wronged us."


Weekend Fisher said...

Thank you!

My new toy (voice recognition software) needs even more proofreading than my typing.

Though it's getting better. When it was still being trained to recognize a voice, we once got "Winds of Palatine" for "Once upon a time" ...

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

I am catching up...Grandkids here, daughter's ordination, visiting my mom, attending daughter's installation. I had marked your essay to reread.

Forgiveness is a powerful thing and modern social science/psychology is recognizing the truth in what Jesus preached. People who harbor resentment and hate imprison themselves. But Christians have the advantage over non-believers in two ways: we have the example of Christ who forgave, and we have the power of God through Christ to help us forgive.

I agree that we need to be taught to forgive. And we have to work on it, over and over, not to expect that the burden of hate/negative emotion is lifted with one act of thinking about forgiveness. {Jesus said 7 X 70...which I take literally AND figuratively.

Forgiveness is a one way street; it isn't necessary for the other party to say "sorry" in order to forgive. In fact, the other party may be oblivious to the strong emotions carried by the potential forgiver. Perhaps no sin was even committed, but only perceived.

I like the way you bring both parties into the story: we may forgive somebody and we can ask that God also forgives that person. We can forgive, as your examples show, before the wrong even happens.

Jesus also taught us to pray for our enemies, which sometimes implies those who have wronged up personally. We can pray for their "conversion" from their bad acts, but also we can pray that we can forgive them as they also are God's children. Can we keep somebody on our enemies list if we have prayed for the power to forgive them>