Sometimes, you can say something so often that it becomes routine and the true meaning is lost.
That’s the danger of speeding through the Lord’s Prayer, or saying it based upon how you’ve probably heard it over and over, not how Jesus actually recited it in the Bible.
Look in both Matthew 6 and Luke 11 for Christ’s actual instructions to his disciples on a prayer model to follow. You’ll notice there is no, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever,” at the end.
But what you can gloss over in Jesus’s words (Matthew 6:12), or miss because it’s not quoted as part of the prayer (Matthew 6:14-15), is the requirement to forgive others for their wrongdoing toward you if you want God to forgive you for your sins.
Forgiveness is essential. After all, everyone in heaven is someone who’s been forgiven, so that means heaven is also full of people who have forgiven others.
It is mandatory for us to forgive others because, given our inborn sinful nature and utter disqualification from God’s standard of perfection, we have all been forgiven much to be acceptable in God’s sight once we claim Christ’s death and resurrection as payment for our sins.
Second, forgiveness frees us from unhealthy obsessions, grudges, etc. toward those who have hurt us. Failing to forgive makes us bitter and ultimately damages us more than it damages the person we’re aiming our resentment toward.
That was hard for me 20-some years ago when someone I trusted betrayed my trust, hurting me and the people who love me very, very deeply. It hurt so badly I genuinely wondered, “Will I ever laugh again? Will I ever smile again.” Seriously, I wondered if I would ever laugh one time the rest of my life. The pain was that deep. That real.
Thankfully, I had been raised in the church and I knew I had to forgive because of what failing to forgive would do to me. I knew that harboring that pain, dwelling on it, plotting revenge, etc., would only empower the person who hurt me to hurt me again and again and again.
The difference-maker for me was realizing the depth of my own sins, and how much they grieved God. I realized I had hurt Him more than I had been hurt by this other person. So if God could forgive me, I had to forgive them.
I hope that thought proves powerful in your life with any struggles you might be having with forgiveness.
Please understand, though, that you can forgive someone and still:
- Feel/Acknowledge pain for what was done to you
- Hate what someone did to you
- Fail to trust that person ever again
- Refuse to give the person access/license to hurt you again
- Allow that person to experience the legal/moral consequences of hurting you
Forgiveness is releasing your right to seek vengeance for what was done to you. That includes releasing thoughts about getting even, not wishing bad things on the person, and not taking pleasure in any misfortune that comes their way.
Extending forgiveness, Jesus makes clear, is an essential element to fully demonstrating that you have been changed by receiving His forgiveness.