The line in the Lord's Prayer that reads, "[F]orgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors," does not mean that we earn God's forgiveness by forgiving other people (Matthew 6:12). If that were true, then salvation would rest on good works, and faith would be unnecessary. Paul says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Real forgiveness has no memory.
Our eternal debt was paid on the cross once and for all. Nothing is outstanding. Forgiving others is not a payment toward our own forgiveness; it's a sign of spiritual life. Once we have received God's forgiveness in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts, it follows that we should become more forgiving of people.
There are two sides to forgiving. The first is transforming your attitude toward the person who has offended you, and the second is transforming your relationship with the person who has offended you. Both take courage.
These two aspects to forgiveness take courage because we much prefer to go on clinging to our resentment. That way, we have a scapegoat. When things go wrong, we can say, "Well, that's because of so-and-so and the awful thing he did to me." It's childish, yet we find the habit incredibly hard to break. Most of the time the best we manage is to "forgive but not forget"—which is not really forgiveness at all because refusing to forget means we are reserving the right to bring the matter up again whenever we please. Holding a grudge—keeping that weapon in reserve—stifles the relationship.
Real forgiveness has no memory. It does not shut other people into the locker of their past mistakes. It makes room for a genuine fresh start. Often, this transformation of attitude is all we need to transform the relationship.
Prayer: Father, help me transform my attitude toward those who have offended me and give me the courage to transform my relationship with them as well. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"[F]orgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12).
Learn more in Dr. Michael Youssef's sermon The Prayer That God Answers, Part 8: LISTEN NOW