Our Father, who lives in the heavens,
May Your name be kept holy.
May Your Kingdom come,
May Your will be done,
On earth just like it’s done in Your presence.
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive our sins
As we forgive those who sin against us.
Don’t bring us to the times of trial,
But deliver us from the evil one.
It’s easy to read this part of the prayer and remind ourselves that God is a forgiving god, and His forgiveness stretches “as far as from the east is from the west” (Psalm 103).
But buried inside this phrase is a much more subversive reality, encapsulated in the the word, “as.”
The way we live our lives, we much better suited to the idea of “forgive our sins, and we will forgive others…”
Or, “forgive our sins, so we will forgive others…”
In other words, we think of it as a sequential, or maybe even an unrelated, reality: God please forgive my sins. I understand there are other people who I need to forgive, but I’ll get to them another day…
What a difference a couple letters makes.
Because the word is, in fact, “as”.
The two acts of seeking and offering forgiveness are intrinsically and intimately related. As Jesus makes it clear in other places of the Gospels (Matthew 18:21-35 and Luke 6:27-36, for starters), his followers should be marked by a willingness to forgive.
You might even say that we are supposed to engage in a constant cycle of forgiveness. Maybe it looks like this:
As we take responsibility for our own brokenness and receive forgiveness from our heavenly Father, it become easier to recognize the brokenness in others, not so that we can clobber them, but so that we can offer the same forgiveness to them.
- Take responsibility means to own our brokenness; to step out of a victim mentality and to say, “regardless of how this happened, I am responsible for my life.”
- To receive forgiveness is to go to God in humility and seek His grace. It means acknowledging that all human beings—including you—stand in need of forgiveness.
- To recognize this in others means to release them from the motives we often give them—”They are intending to harm me”—and instead to understand that they are broken too, and perhaps operating out of the same fear and uncertainty that you do.
- To offer them forgiveness is to be willing to see them as your equal, and to relinquish the right to “take revenge” in some way.
* An aside: Forgiveness can be a difficult process that is more complicated than four bullet points. Other folks have unpacked forgiveness in thorough and compelling ways.
So how “open” is your cycle of forgiveness? Is it flowing freely through you?