Do you realize how dangerous it is to pray the most popular prayer in the world? In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us 7 “petitions” or individual prayers. In the 5th petition we say “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”
All of the other petitions we throw out there with no strings attached, but right here, we ask,
“God, would you please treat me just like I treat other people?”
A bit daring, wouldn’t you say? Even dangerous. Unless you’re Jesus.
Our ego is busy, always comparing, either seeking approval of others or struggling to be better than they are.
Goodness, I caught myself doing this when I parked my truck at Home Depot and actually was impressed with myself for parking straight—like evenly between the lines. Especially because I noticed the person parked next to me was kinda crooked. In my heart I hoped that others would notice this, and my selfish superiority also kicked in—feeling good that I am a better person than the driver of that Hyundai who can’t park straight. Wow. Lame.
So, back to Jesus, who is the perfect and sinless Son of God but was tempted in real and much more intense ways than we are. If you’re Jesus, and so perfect and powerful, wouldn’t it be tempting to look around you at all the people who can’t park straight, or love unconditionally, or sacrifice their desires and their lives for others, and think, “What a bunch of losers. I’m better than they are.”
That ego trip was very tempting, which is why Jesus needed his Father’s help.
“I have come in my Father’s name,” he said (John 5:43). “I am going to send you what my Father has promised” (Luke 24:49).
Jesus appealed to his Father, whose wisdom and will directed his desires. Ultimately, that led to dying on the cross.
“What shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No. It was for this very reason I came to this hour” (John 12:27).
And on his cross, dying for our sins, Jesus appealed to his Father again, invoking him to act from above as Jesus prayed for his persecutors and executioners, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34).
Jesus, experiencing the wound of others’ sins against him, transfers its burden to One who can in that moment can carry it. And the Father’s work through the Son forgives the sins of the world. Forgives us for not forgiving.
We simply cannot forgive others the way that God so freely and unconditionally forgives us, unless he forgives us first.
And he does. He did. At the cross. So we, the forgiven, become the forgivers and pray, “Father, forgive our sins just like we forgive others their sins.” Not because we’re confident in our ego that we are so good, but because we’re convinced by faith that God is so good.
PRAYER: Dear Jesus, forgiveness is the heartbeat of Christianity. You give it freely by grace, and call us to do the same for others. When that becomes difficult, or seems impossible, convince us that this is your work, not just ours. Amen.
FURTHER MEDITATION: Meditate in prayer and ask God to help you consider where and who you need to forgive. Ask him to open your heart to this in a new way, to lead you to a new place, and to bless difficult relationships.