Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.Luke 11:4a
Here is the need for a cleansed conscience, for a sense of peace, of rest with God and man. This is the arena where the emotional clutter of our life takes a very deadly toll. Who of us has not experienced troublesome mental symptoms, morbid depressions and unreasoning fears and insecurity? Both Scripture and modern psychology, in its groping after truth, agree that underneath these symptoms lurk two frightening monsters: Fear and Guilt. If we can find a way to slay these fiery dragons, the whole emotional atmosphere of our life will pass into peace.
When we pray,
Forgive us our sins, we are asking for the reality that God promises to every believer in Jesus Christ,
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, (Romans 8:1a KJV). I do not know anything that troubles Christians more than a sense of guilt. But in this simple prayer is a fully adequate answer, for if we have laid hold of the forgiveness of God, we know there is nothing any longer between us and the Lord. Our hearts there are absolutely free before him and the result is a pervading sense of peace.
But notice, now, Jesus immediately adds a limitation to this. We cannot say to God,
Forgive us our sins, unless we are willing and have said to others that they are forgiven for their sins against us. Jesus is not referring here to that divine forgiveness that accompanies conversion. The Lord's Prayer is meant for Christians — for only Christians can really pray it intelligently. No non-Christian ever receives forgiveness from God on the basis claiming to forgive everyone else. It is impossible for him to forgive until he himself has first received the forgiveness of God, and that forgiveness is offered because of the death of Jesus. We Christians come thanking him for what the death on the cross has already done in taking away the awful burden of our sin.
But, having received that forgiveness, we will still never rest in God's forgiveness for the defilements of our Christian walk unless we are ready to extend that same forgiveness to those who offend us. This forgiveness keeps us enjoying unbroken fellowship with the Father and with the Son, which is the secret of emotional quietness and rest. Jesus is simply saying that, if you are a Christian, then there is no use praying
Father, forgive my sins if you are holding a grudge against someone else, or burning with resentment, or filled with bitterness. Your soul will always be distracted. What he says is, face that first,
First be reconciled with your brother, then come and offer your gift at the altar, (Matthew 5:24b RSV). Forgive him, and then the healing forgiveness of God will flood your own heart and you will find there is nothing then that can destroy the God-given peace down at the very center of your being. If we refuse to forgive someone else we are really withholding from another the grace that has already been shown to us. It is only because we have already been forgiven the great and staggering debt of our own sins that we can ever find the grace to forgive the relatively paltry slights someone else has heaped upon us.
Father, thank you for the forgiveness you have promised through the work of Jesus on the cross, and thank you that knowing this forgiveness frees me to forgive others.
Are we blocking the fullness and freedom of God's forgiveness of our sins by refusing to extend to others the same grace of forgiveness God has made available to us?