Mathew 6: 9-13
Last week we considered Give us this day our daily bread. This week, I would like to share some thoughts from this excerpt from the Lord’s Prayer; forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
There are few things in life as important as forgiveness. We need to be forgiven and we need to forgive. This passage in the Lord’s Prayer is very clear: if we expect God to forgive us we must do everything in our power to forgive others. It is obvious that this is very important to God. If we take this verse on its face our good standing with God depends on it.
The potential to be offended, intentionally or unintentionally, is always with us. Most of the time when we are offended it’s small and fairly easy to overlook and brush to the side. It is a healthy thing to be sensitive enough to be slightly hurt by what someone says or does; kind of normal, no forgiveness needed – just a little tolerance and generosity. Yet, there are times in life when we are deeply wounded by someone: we have been wronged in a big way. Mostly these offenses are in the past. But sometimes the person is still in our lives in some way, continuing their insensitive and selfish behavior toward us or the people we care about. This makes it even worse.
There is no justification clause in the Lord’s Prayer. As hard as it is we just cannot justify anger or even hatred, nor should we retaliate because we have been hurt. We must ask God to help us hurdle these feelings toward people who have and who continue to trespass against us. In addition, there is no clause in the Lord’s Prayer that someone must say I’m sorry as as condition for our forgiveness. If we need an apology to forgive people we would not forgive many people in our lives. It’s nice when we get an apology, it makes it easier but we should not need it to forgive. We forgive because it is the right thing to do. We forgive because God asked us to do it. And we forgive because it heals our soul and places us in right standing with God.
When we pray lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil we are really praying for daily protection. We are praying for God to watch over us and the people we care about. To be tempted in the Lord’s Prayer means to be tested. It is mostly understood that we must experience some hardships if we are going to grow in life. Physical exercise requires resistance to tone and grow our muscles, so resistance and pressure promotes character and spiritual growth. We are not asking God to keep us from every test or trial in life. That’s not what this part of the Lord’s Prayer is about. It is about keeping us from some of the horrific evils that are part of our fallen world; wickedness in any form that would seek to damage our faith and well-being.
We should trust and pray for Gods protection. This is what God has instructed us to do, so we do it. Yet, as it has been said, sometimes bad things happen to good people – the generous, the prayerful, and the faithful. These are confusing and deeply hurtful times in life when we are driven to the comforting presence of God. Trained clinicians can help us through the healing process, but ultimately the healing comes from God. Christian clinicians will tell you that.
Years ago, I was asked to give the eulogy of two young children tragically lost in a auto accident. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I knew the parents well, and wondered how they would ever survive this awful experience. I watched them closely over the next year or two; how their relationship with God strengthened them. I remember thinking how real and true it is, what Jesus said to his followers, Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.
I have often thought of Martin Luther, the great reformer of the sixteenth century who lost his young daughter. His writings leave us with how broken and confused he was: yet his relationship with God strengthened him and gave him clarity; even to the degree that some of his greatest works and writings for the church were conceived and implemented. As we look back at Martin Luther, a few hundred years have past; the time between the father’s and the daughter’s passing seem insignificant in retrospect, just a few moments in time; both in heaven now, reunited. This life, with its heartaches and delights, is not the end of the road but the beginning of an everlasting journey with those we love and will love that are on this same highway with us.