When Jesus was asked by his followers to “teach us to pray,” one of the petitions he left them with was to request that the Lord “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” I don’t know if I’m bold enough to make that request. I’m not sure if I want my Heavenly Father to apply the same amount of forgiveness as I do with those who have stepped on my toes (that’s a less formal way of saying those who have “trespassed against me”).
Could it be that my prayers are not getting very far (bouncing off the ceiling) because I haven’t removed the ceiling of unforgiveness from my life and my heart? Maybe I’ve forgiven a few on “my list,” but that may only allow for some slow filtering through the roof of my prayers, and little room for answers to return and enter in. Anybody with me so far?
Good ole “flap jaw” Peter (I like to call him Rocky) asked the Lord, “How many times must I forgive?” The reply, “seventy times seven,” probably wasn’t what he wanted to hear. I have trouble hearing that myself for that matter. I think that pretty much meant an unlimited amount. For me, I think the first time is the hard one. You see, I’ve got to be forgiven first and may need 70 times myself in order to become free enough to forgive many of my “debtors” — the ones that “owe me.”
Somewhere in the ’60s, Christians had a little three letter word that they liked to use, and even had some little symbols on their shelves with the letters, “JOY.” Those in the know, knew that it represented the slogan, “Jesus first – Others second – Yourself last.”
A great friend of mine, once taught a Bible study where he asked permission to switch the letters around to “J-Y-O” saying that we can’t successfully live our lives, and love our neighbors properly, until we have a wonderful love relationship with our Savior and then the “O” (others) will be loved and better loved than before.
Let’s recall that our Savior already asked the Father for our forgiveness while he was paying the price. Remember he said, “they don’t know what they are doing.” Could it be that, that person at the top of the list, doesn’t truly know? They need to hear from us.
First, begin a process of totally forgiving yourself and receiving the forgiveness Jesus already pleaded for you. Cash in that gift. Spend some time reflecting on what a great gift it was long ago. Then forgive that “debtor – trespasser” with all the appreciation you have. Pray for help if you need it (I certainly do if I’m to be successful at all).
If you’re now humble enough and grateful enough, follow the idea recently portrayed in the movie “Pay it Forward.” Set out to contact the person (one-on-one as the Scripture says) and see if you can’t begin the reconciliation process Jesus provided in Matthew 18 (especially verses 12 and following). See that person with forgiveness and the value that would lead one to leave the 99 sheep and go after the one. Often it’s been said, “If you were the only person alive, Jesus would have died just for you.” And, you know what? He did.
Pastor Bill Baltz is a member of the Carson Valley Ministers’ Association.