Forgiving Others: It’s all about whose we are, not what they did.
When I think debt, I think money. But when He spoke Matthew 6:12: “and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors,” He meant what we owe God, how we are obliged to Him. That’s why forgiving others is all about whose we are, not what they did to us.
Welcome back to my series on the Perfect Prayer, our best example of how to pray given to us by our perfect Savior. Today I’m giving some background for study of Matthew 6:12, 14-15. After this, I’ll be doing a couple more blogs on these verses as well as on Jesus’s parable in Matt. 18:21-35, which will help us to grow in our understanding of the connection between whose we are and how to forgive others.
With all due respect, I know forgiving others is a hard topic. A person, or many people, have committed and/or will continue to do hideous acts of abuse as well as unspeakable violence against you and others.
I am not making light of it nor do I have any wish to lessen the significance of the pain we suffer.
This blog is, however, much more about God and His Infinite ability to work in and through His people to accomplish His purposes, no matter what challenges we’ve faced. Ps. 138:8
So we’ll both be asking ourselves whose we are, and in some ways, learning how to yield to His Spirit and leadership in our lives. So, if you’re willing to grow in Him, trust that He is faithful and will be with us every step of the way.
On that note, let’s get started with some powerful C.S. Lewis quotes to get us in the right frame of mind regarding who we are and what we need.
Enlightening C.S. Lewis commentary
Christianity tells people to repent and promises them forgiveness. It therefore has nothing (as far as I know) to say to people who do not know they have done anything to repent of and who do not feel that they need any forgiveness.
It is after you have realized that there is a real Moral Law, and a Power behind the law, and that you (break) that law (on a daily basis, or in my case, an hourly basis—this aside added by Janine) and put yourself wrong with that Power—it is after all this and not moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk.
When you are sick, you will listen to the doctor. When you have realized that our position is . . . desperate you will begin to understand what the Christians are talking about.
Regarding forgiveness, C. S. Lewis also helps us understand that we . . .
must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in (our) own heart—every wish to humiliate or hurt (one who hurts us) or to pay him out. The difference between this situation and the one in which (we) are asking God’s forgiveness is this.
In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people’s we do not accept them easily enough.
As regards my own sin it is a safe bet . . . that the excuses are not really so good as I think; as regards other men’s sins against me it is a safe bet . . . that the excuses are better than I think.
To excuse what can really produce good excuses is not Christian character; it is only fairness. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.
This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury.
But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life—to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son—how can we do it?
Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night ‘forgive our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.’
C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (New York: Harper Collins, 2001; Originally published 1949), 181-183 (paragraphing mine).
How forgiving others often plays out
So what did “forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” mean to you before you read C.S. Lewis’s discussion?
I used to think it meant Jesus was asking God to forgive me the same way I forgave others, which wasn’t very encouraging.
In fact, it created in me a prickly responsibility to release others, rather than a truly loving, godly attitude that intentionally goes out of my way to forgive others like God forgives us.
My lack-love, gotta-do-this outlook was further distressed when He added: “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.” Matthew 6:14-15
But, there is far more depth to Jesus’s request than my original understanding of these verses, and it’s all about our place in the world compared to God’s.
If we truly know and accept our humble position, forgiving others is much easier. In fact, He will do the forgiving through us.
We’ll need stick together and keep reminding ourselves of what He calls us to do, though. It’s not something we’ve routinely been taught, and we won’t necessarily want to yield. It gets easier though, I’ve seen that in my own life.
Keep studying these C.S. Lewis quotes, and take some time to look at that parable in Matt. 18:21-35. Leave a comment, too. I’d love to hear how God has helped you forgive someone, or if you have a challenge and need prayer, I’d be happy to pray with you.
Chat again soon,