The Lord's Prayer: "And Forgive Us Our Debts"

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, April 26, 2021 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

In last week’s post, we looked at the phrase before this one in the Lord’s Prayer - give us today our daily bread. You may notice that this week’s phrase, “And forgive us our debts,” begins with the word “and,” linking it to the previous phrase. But what does forgiveness have to do with God’s daily provision of our physical needs?

Perhaps, God’s provision for our physical needs is not enough. Yes, we need food to sustain our bodies and maintain physical health; but our overall health is so much more than physical. Our health also contains aspects of emotional and spiritual health. We all commit sins against God and against one another, so forgiveness is a key part of being spiritually healthy.

When I learned the Lord’s Prayer growing up in the church, the word “trespasses” was used instead of “debts.” The word in Greek is opheilema, which can mean a debt, an obligation, something that is owed, a wrong, a sin, delinquency, an offense, a fault, etc. As you can see, there is a wide range of meanings for this one word. Today, the word “trespass” is most often used in the context of trespassing on someone else’s property - being in a place where you should not be. Instead, the word debt has the idea of something being owed, though this often has a financial connotation to it.

My fellow writer Charlie Wolcott wrote about the idea of debts being forgiven a few weeks ago. Being forgiven of a financial debt means we no longer need to pay that debt. The debt still exists; someone needs to pay for it. But if I have a financial debt that is forgiven, I am not the person responsible for paying it any longer. From a spiritual sense, we owed God a debt because of our sins, and Jesus took on that debt through His death on the cross. The debt was still owed, but we’re “off the hook” for paying that debt because Jesus paid it for us. It still had to be paid.

The idea of forgiveness is spoken of in many places in the Bible since it’s something that we all need! Psalm 32:1-2 says, “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.” Psalm 130:3-4 says, “If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.” Ephesians 1:7-8a says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” Jesus Himself forgave sins in Mark 2:1-5. He also shared how His blood would be poured out for the forgiveness of our sins during the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-29).

This phrase of the Lord’s prayer calls out our sins for us and reminds us that we need to confess those sins. As 1 John 1:8-10 tells us, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” Anyone who says they have not disobeyed God is not being truthful. Saying we have not sinned makes God out to be a liar, and we know that God does not lie. Instead, we need to confess the times that we have sinned against God, and then we can receive His forgiveness for those sins.

Confession of our sins is important to recognize the ways we have done wrong against God; if we don’t recognize and acknowledge our sin, then we are much more likely to repeat that same sin. If we think we’re perfect (or even “good enough” to meet God’s standards, which we aren’t), then we’d have no need for God’s forgiveness. Confessing our sins keeps us humble.

This phrase of the Lord’s Prayer also reminds us that forgiveness of our sins is not something we can accomplish on our own. We need to ask God to accomplish this for us. The verb here used in Greek for “forgive” is an imperative, which means it’s a command. We’re strongly asking God to forgive our sins; we know we can’t do this on our own, we need God to do it for us. We know that He is fully capable of this because of Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection. Jesus paid that debt that we all have. We have all been disobedient to God and require His forgiveness for the sin that exists in our lives.

Confess the sins you have committed against God. Ask God for His forgiveness. Know that you will be forgiven, out of God’s great love and mercy for us. Next week, we’ll look at forgiveness between people.

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