Scripture: and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. ~Matthew 6:12
Theological Thought: The literary structure of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) suggests a sort of map that can lead us to holiness and the Father, in much the same way that Boticelli’s map of hell leads the viewer to the bottomless pit. In the Lord’s prayer, if we start at the beginning we see where we want to end: with holiness. The steps to holiness then (in reverse order) are obedience, acceptance, and forgiveness while the final passage (“Lead us not into temptation”) represents the place where we begin, and to where we are constantly drawn. As such, from our fallen place, the first step to holiness is forgiveness.
Reflection: It is often believed that in order to be forgiven, the perpetrator of whatever sin or harm that is to be forgiven, must repent. That was not true of the parishioners of Emmanuel AME in Charleston, who forgave Dylann Roof for his assault on the church knowing full well that his repentance was unlikely. Nor was it true of Jesus who cried out from the cross “Forgive them Father” well before any of them had expressed even a hint of repentance. I can forgive someone who is absolutely convinced that they have done no wrong, but in order to receive forgiveness, in order to be lifted up and away from the evil things that tempt me (cf Mt 6:13) I must recognize my sin and deliberately turn away from it. It might be things I myself have done. I might have cheated someone out of money; I might have paid a bribe; I might have fallen with lust or some other sin and for these things I must repent. However, I must also recognize those areas in which my complicit support has caused harm. I must recognize that standing silent while others suffered is also a sin. This is hard, almost harder than figuring out what I’ve actually done and must repent of because most often I don’t even realize where I’m standing.
Prayer: Father, heal my heart of those things that turn me away from you. Heal me of my stubbornness and my fear that stop me from coming closer to you.
Practice: Confess your sins to someone you trust and someone you feel would be willing to walk with you as the Lord deals with you and delivers you from it. I would suggest someone who is older and more spiritually mature than you, but it is also important to be that older confessor to someone else – that you would be as willing to walk with someone in their sin as you would hope to find someone willing to walk with you in yours.