As We Forgive . . .
Scripture Reading: Matthew 18:21-35
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or your sister from your heart.”
Do you know the phrase quid pro quo? It’s Latin, and it means “this for that”—or, in other words, “Do this for me, and I’ll do that for you.”
At first glance, that may seem to be the meaning of the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12), [12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.] or “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us” (Luke 11:4).[4 Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.]
And we might say, “Wait—aren’t God’s grace and forgiveness unconditional? If we must forgive to receive forgiveness, isn’t that a quid pro quo?” No. The Bible teaches that we are all guilty before God, and we can’t earn our forgiveness. Jesus stood in our place and bore the punishment for our sins on the cross. Through Jesus, we are made right with God, an act of pure grace. This indeed is good news!
We can’t earn our forgiveness, but the way we live shows how much we are open to being changed by the Lord’s grace. As we have been forgiven, Jesus calls us to show forgiveness toward people who sin against us. If we refuse to forgive others, we are stubbornly refusing to see that we ourselves need forgiveness.
When we pray, “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive . . .” it’s not “this for that” but more like “this out of that.” Because we are forgiven, we can show forgiveness to others.
Father, from the depths of your mercy, you have forgiven our many sins. Help us to forgive anyone who sins against us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.