Sunday, July 5, 2009

Forgive Us Our Debts

The King James version of the Lord's Prayer goes like this:
After this manner therefore pray ye:
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our
debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
(Matthew 6:9-13)

I found this meaningful quote on forgiveness in Blake Coffee's Blog "The Church Whisperer"
Forgiveness is more about wiping away a debt. It is saying to a person, “You owe me nothing more…no money, no apology, no hugs, no sympathy cards, nothing…I really am no longer looking for any of that from you…you are released from any moral or ethical or legal obligations to me for this pain…as much as is possible, we are going to move forward now and I will not be holding this over you any longer, waiting to hit you on the head with it if you mess up again…I will not be keeping score because where I am concerned your slate is now wiped clean…I wish the very best for you and God’s blessings on you.” Forgiveness isn’t something we wait to feel, it is something we communicate to the person who hurt us irrespective of how we feel.

We don't use this version very often in our churches, but the use of the word
debt really struck me today. When I forgive someone, I'm charged to wipe the slate clean, to let go of any expectation of "payment," so to speak. No further explanation, apology, or expression of regret is required, because the debt is forgiven. Yes, I might feel that I'm "owed" one or more of these things, but now I'm making the decision to forgive the debt, to allow the debtor to start fresh.

It's a very concrete way of looking at forgiveness. Like if I had a problem with a credit card debt and the company allows me to pay part or none and forgives the debt. Afterward, I can start fresh, without late fees or other penalties hanging over my head. I respond best to concrete examples, things that I can wrap my head around.

Oftentimes, I have had trouble forgiving because I felt that I had been "paid" part or none of what I was "owed" for my suffering. The quote marks are intentional, because these words are indicative of my feelings, whether or not they are based on fact. When I forgive my debtor, I let go of keeping track of whatever I feel is owed me. We have the opportunity to start fresh, to restore and repair without old debts hanging over our heads.

I am looking forward to using this definition of forgiveness in the situations I encounter in my life. I think it's very do-able. Hard, but do-able. By using the concept of forgiving a debt, I'm able to separate my feelings from my forgiveness, and maybe I can give my feelings a fighting chance of catching up.


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