Luke 11:4- And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive everyone that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. NKJV
Don’t you just love Jesus and the way He shared His heart with us? I’m sure that’s a great big AMEN! When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, from all that I have read about them in the Bible, they weren’t thinking about what Jesus was sharing. They saw Jesus return from the mountaintop or the desert where He had communed with the Father and then performed great miracles. They probably really wanted to know how to pray and get a miracle. That’s what I would have wanted and still want!
But Jesus taught them how to pray for what really matters. In this verse, the issue is that of forgiveness. We are all open to being forgiven by the Father and others, but we are not always open to forgiving others. Jesus took time to let us know that forgiveness is important to Him, and as open as we are to receiving it, that’s how we need to be about giving it.
And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive everyone that is indebted to us.Luke 11:4a NKJV
Dictionary.com defines interdependence as something that is “mutually reliant on each other.” We see examples of this daily in nature and relationships. In nature, every living organism, including mankind, is dependent upon its environment to meet its needs. When an organism or living thing cannot produce its own food, it becomes dependent on other organisms for food. We also depend upon other organisms to survive, demonstrating interdependence in nature or nature’s mutual reliance on everything in the environment.
When Jesus told the disciples to pray “and forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone that is indebted to us,” He was basically saying that the forgiveness of our sins depends on whether we are forgiving others. Thus making this statement an interdependent clause in prayer.
“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”Mark 11:25-26 NKJV
In plain terms, if we forgive, we will receive forgiveness; if we don’t forgive, we won’t receive forgiveness. Let me clearly state that God is a just God. His ways are just and they are true. Even though this may sound a little harsh and even unfair, it remains true. If we want to continue the privilege of having our sins forgiven us, we will have to continue the privilege of extending forgiveness to others. All of us! None are exempt!
I’ve heard it said that God doesn’t expect me to forgive this situation or that person because He knows the depth of my pain. Yes, He does! If you want to be forgiven, you must also forgive.
Remember when Peter tried to demonstrate his graciousness to forgive someone up to seven times? After all, it’s difficult to forgive someone three times, so seven had to demonstrate patience and genuine desire to walk in forgiveness.
Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”Matthew 18:21 NKJV
Jesus replied to Peter:
“I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.Matthew 18:22 NKJV
490 times! That’s incredulous! It’s impossible! And don’t forget that it’s totally unfair to be asked to forgive somebody 490 times. After all, if I have to forgive them that many times, then they can’t possibly be sorry for anything and don’t deserve to be forgiven. 490 times!
In his commentary on this verse, William Barclay states that the rabbis taught that you had to forgive three times, and on the fourth offense, you did not have to forgive. They based this on God’s judgment in the book of Amos against Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, and other nations surrounding Jerusalem:
Thus says the Lord, “For three transgressions of Damascus and for four (multiplied delinquencies) I shall not reverse its punishment or revoke My word concerning it,Amos 1:3 AMP
Because they have threshed Gilead [east of the Jordan River] with sharp iron sledges [having spikes that crushed and shredded].
God exercised patience with the nations until their fourth offense appeared, with which He held them responsible for their actions and brought judgment against them. Because no one could be more gracious than God, the rabbis considered three times was sufficient, and there would be no more forgiveness on the fourth time. Thus, Peter was being extremely gracious, or so he thought!
Jesus’ reply doesn’t suggest that we keep record of another’s offense until they reach 490 offenses. It suggests the opposite. That we keep no record and forgive as necessary. Just as the heavenly Father treats us. A theme that is repeated throughout the scriptures. James stated it like this:
For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.James 2:13 NKJV
We have been forgiven much! Our sins before the Lord were worthy of eternal damnation. Yet, He forgives us. The mercy He extends to us is the mercy we are to extend to others. Jesus follows His statement with a parable of a servant who received forgiveness for a huge financial debt he couldn’t pay. In return, he went and demanded finances owed him from another person. When the person couldn’t pay the small amount, the servant had the man thrown into debtors prison. When those who had seen it reported it to the king, who had forgiven his debts, the king was angry and threw him into debtors’ prison.
Barclay recalls how Kennedy drew a picture of this parable:
“Suppose they were paid in small coins (like dimes). the 100-denarii debt could be carried in a pocket. The 10,000 talent debt would take an army of about 8,000 carriers to carry it, each carrying a sack of coins 60 pounds in weight; and they would form, at a distance of a yard apart, a line five miles long.”William Barclay, excerpt from Matthew commentary of the parable in Matthew 18:22-34
Now that’s a picture we need to be mindful of when we are trespassed against. What that person did to us is like the dimes in the pocket compared to our sins before God which are far greater.
I’ve said this before, and maybe one day, God will correct me. I don’t believe forgiveness equals fellowship. In some cases, particularly family relationships, it might. But in other relationships, it doesn’t. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we stay in abusive relationships to please God. No! I don’t think that is what Jesus is teaching us. However, forgiving that individual, or those individuals, will enable you to move on to a healthier you. And God will be pleased with that.
“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”Matthew 18:35 NKJV
One pastor said this: If you hold on to unforgiveness, you become the guard over the prison where you place the offender. You are both bound. Forgiveness frees you to pursue your life to the fullest. And more importantly, it gives God access to a heart that is whole and ready for healing and growth!
All of this model of prayer is important. But if you have unforgiveness in your heart, you may need to start at the place of forgiveness to accurately and honestly pray the first. Remember that being forgiven by God is interdependent upon you, all of us, forgiving others. Wonderful Jesus!