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Words of Life

Just As…

By Sheila Walsh October 19, 2014 Words of Life

So what is forgiveness? How do we know when we have God’s complete forgiveness and when we ourselves have truly forgiven others? 

We find this central instruction in Matthew 6, in the middle of the discourse often called the “the Sermon on the Mount.” Jesus gives it to us as He teaches about prayer. Now, when Jesus Himself says, “Pray like this,” I want to pay attention! Jesus spoke this prayer to teach His disciples how to pray; He designed it as a model prayer appropriate to those who have a vital, ongoing relationship with God the Father. 

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:9-13 NIV) 

We often stop there, but Jesus continued his impromptu lecture. He added, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (vv. 14-15 NIV). 

I find it interesting that verses 14 and 15 basically reiterate and unpack verse 12 of the Lord’s prayer: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” This is no small suggestion, but a look into what matters deeply to God. 

Jesus inseparably connects God’s forgiveness of us with our forgiveness of others. In exactly the same way, the apostle Paul instructs us to forgive one another, “just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). 

Just as… 

And how did God through Christ forgive us? Of what did He forgive us, and of how much? 

The New Testament uses five distinct words to refer to “sin.” 

  • Hamartia means “missing the target.” We all do that. We were going to lose five pounds before summer!
  • Parabasis means “stepping across the line.” We see the line, we feel tempted to step across it, and we take the step.
  • Paraptoma means “slipping across a line” – not as deliberate as parabasis, but more like what might slip out of your mouth if you drop the iron on your foot!
  • Anomia means “lawless,” a total disregard for what is right.
  • Opheilema means “the failure to pay a debt.” This is the word Christ used in Matthew 6. 

Christ laid down His life at the cross, not because you and I might miss the target on occasion, or step across the line to see if we get caught, or let something slip out, or even because we chose to live lawlessly. No, Christ said He gave His life for us because we owed huge debt that we have no ability to pay. Suppose you were a woman with $2 to her name and an IRS agent tracked you down and said, “You owe the government $2 million, and you have to pay it by nightfall or go to jail.” 

You can’t do it. 

No one could. 

We owe God a debt we simply have no way of repaying. The debt is too huge and our resources too scant. It’s one thing to say to someone, “I’m so sorry that I ran into the back of your car”; it’s quite another to have absolutely no means of repaying a gargantuan debt. Only Christ could do that for us – and He did. We had no access to heaven, apart from Christ, and yet because of His supreme sacrifice, we get to come and make it our eternal home, through faith in Him and in His shed blood. Across our broken lives God has stamped: DEBT PAID IN FULL. 

And it is from that place God calls us to forgive wholeheartedly.


Watch Sheila this Thursday on LIFE TODAY. Reprinted by permission. The Storm Inside by Sheila Walsh. Copyright ©2014 by Sheila Walsh. Published by Thomas Nelson Inc., Nashville, Tennessee. All rights reserved. 

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