Matthew 6:12 (NKJV): “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
Personally, when I pray Christ’s Model prayer and come to this part, I pray, “And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us,” rather than the way mentioned above from the New King James Version. For the blog today, however, I will use the words of the NKJV, as there are powerful truths we can reap from it. Both ways of praying Matthew 6:12 speak on the same concept, but I believe the NKJV version brings to light an important reality of our relationship with God.
1) We are in debt
The whole message of the Gospel, and the reason God came down to earth to save us, is because we are in way over our heads. As humans, we all have a digging problem. It seems as though, no matter how much we dig, we never find what we are looking for in the dirt. And, though we may find pebbles of gold in the soil sometimes, it doesn’t seem to satisfy. If we could just get one more nugget of some valuable ore, then we’d be content and probably stop digging. Probably. But, we don’t stop searching, and it seems the cycle of abuse we put ourselves and others through never seems to cease.
We dig because we are searching for something more. Sure, the gold and gemstones we may find while digging seems to produce some kind of happiness and satisfaction--for a while. But where does it go? Why does that satisfaction not stay? Why is there a gnawing within us that longs for something else--something better? It’s because there is something better, or more accurately, Someone better. And no, it’s not in another human that we find this answer; at least, not in any human like ourselves.
Ultimately, we are all princes and princesses that have run away from our inheritance and made ourselves into peasants--into slaves. Like the prodigal son in Luke 15, we have spiritually left our heavenly Father’s estate and have squandered our means of living. It isn’t until we get to the end of ourselves--like in Luke 15, with the son wishing he could just eat the pods that the pigs were eating because he was so hungry--that we realize, “I don’t have to live this way!” And it’s at that point in our life that we stop digging and remember what God says: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8 BSB). We don’t have to dig for pieces of gold when we have a God who wants to give us the riches of heaven. And what He is wanting to give us is worth far more than anything we could’ve found in the dirt.
What is sad is that, despite all of the digging we could do, there is nothing we could find in the ground that is valuable enough to pay off the debt we owe. We dig and dig to find value for ourselves, but the payment is insurmountable. If God is not in us, then the debt we owe is death. Christ says He is the light of life in John 8:12, so if we choose to separate ourselves from Him, then our life will be darkness. If God is the root of life, then separating ourselves from that root will only lead us to death. Therefore, the debt that comes with separation from God is death. And if we are owed death, how else can we pay such a price if not to die?
2) An infinite payment for an infinite debt
In light of Matthew 6:12, we owe God the debt that we are due. God is perfectly good, and if we separate ourselves from Him, that means we are sinning. And with this sin comes death, because we have separated ourselves from the source of life. God accounts for every sin committed because He is that good--He is holy. But, we may ask, “Why then does God expect anything from us, if it’s clear there is no way we could live up to such a standard of perfection?” Our debt is so great, and the price we have to pay is so unattainable, that God is speaking a loud and clear message through it: “You don’t do anything, except believe in Me.” When we commit any act that breaks any of God’s law--thereby disobeying God--we have sinned. Yet, we know it’s not about finding life through the law and upholding it by ourselves: “Did that which is good [the law], then, become death to me? Certainly not! But in order that sin might be exposed as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.” (Romans 7:13 BSB). All of Romans 7 is Paul writing about our innate nature to sin and break God’s law, and him wrestling with the hopelessness of our flesh. We can’t not sin, and to a holy God, that is an infinite debt.
Yet, where humanity was unable to pay such a debt, God paid for it Himself. The only price that can be paid for an infinite debt is an infinite payment. Who, but God, could entirely and totally ensure our salvation? When we run to our shovels and begin doing the work of this world, believing that we can save ourselves and make our own answers, Christ picks up His cross, and begins walking to Golgotha. In perfect humility, and without condemnation, God silently bears the cross that was meant for us. Without throwing it in our face, or yelling at us for all we’ve done wrong, Jesus simply walks to His own death; a death that He doesn’t deserve in the slightest. And it’s there, on the cross, that God showed us the love He has for us, that, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NIV).
While we were still in the hole that we dug, Christ came down into our mess, saying, “There’s a better way, and it’s My way.” He brings us out of the pit, and instead of digging holes looking for gold, He puts us to work tilling ground to bear fruit. We tend the ground with Jesus and cultivate the land, and spend time with Him as He leads us in our work. With Christ, we replace the shovel with a plow, and while we are still working with dirt, our purpose has changed. While we sometimes question what God is doing through the barren seasons and in the winters, and wonder where Christ has gone once we have tilled the land, we are told to wait on the Lord.
We will see God’s will come to life if we are faithful in the waiting. And as winter comes to a close and spring arrives, Christ brings seeds for us to plant. By summer, the work we did with Christ in the difficult seasons is now bearing fruit and we can appreciate God’s wisdom; He had a plan the whole time. It is with the new crops we have reaped and the surplus we have gained that we realize how bountiful the way of the Lord is--but God is not done. In Christ, we not only reap a crop that is thirty, sixty, or a hundred times what was sown, but out of God’s abundance, we also bring life to others.
3) Love God and love others
God is a being of love and of interconnection. When Christ is Lord of our lives, He will inevitably lead us into community, and into whatever assignment of love toward others He calls us to do. We know that “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” (John 6:29 NIV). If that is the “work” that God calls us to do, then, naturally, the work He will assign us will revolve around that as well. When we are saved and brought into new life in Jesus, He will lead us to share what He has done for us with others. This is why the first and greatest commandment is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart (kardia), with all your soul (psychē), and with all your mind (dianoia).” (Matthew 22:37 NKJV). From God’s agape love for us, we are continually transformed by the Holy Spirit to bear the attributes of God, being love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). In essence, God makes us more like Him by simply raising up more of Himself within us. Thus, it is from the first commandment--loving God--that brings life to the second great commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39).
Love God with all of your heart; make Him the center of who you are. Love God with all of your soul; glorify Him with every moment of your life. Love God will all of your mind; let Him continuously lead you into a deeper knowing and understanding of who He is. From God’s love, let us love others in the way that God has loved us--with a self-giving and selfless kind of love. This is why we pray Matthew 6:12, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors”--it is to receive God, that we may give God. In asking God to forgive us, and asking Him to help us turn away from the things that push Him away, we are repenting.
And it is through repentance that God forgives us and shows us grace. The eternal grace that Christ paid for at the cross--the debt of death that we could never afford--is what reconciles our relationship with God, and therefore brings us deeper into the depths of His love. This reconciliation done through Christ is what will grow us in all the ways that He identified: with all of our hearts, with all of our souls, and with all of our minds. It is by God’s grace that we realize how good He is, and that no matter what happens in this world, we can stand on the truth that God has given everything so that we could be with Him forever. It is in Jesus that we have this assurance.
Not a Christian? New to your walk with Jesus? A long-time believer? How do we get to know Jesus, or get to know Him more? Christ says to seek Him with an honest and contrite heart, not testing the will of God--go with reverence to your secret place to pray. Humble yourself, and find God’s grace. Explore the Word of God by reading the Bible. Keep the palms of your heart open, being willing to receive whatever God is wanting to give you. Find other people who want to walk with Christ, and create a community centered on Jesus. Believe in the Father. Believe in the Son. Believe in the Holy Spirit. The Lord our God, the Lord is One (Deuteronomy 6:4). Have faith, fight the good fight, and run to God in every moment you need help (and even when you don’t). Blessing or no blessing; miracle or no miracle; success or no success; life or death--God alone is good, and He is worthy of it all. If you've given your life to Jesus and haven't gotten baptized, you should go and do so, and proclaim openly what Christ has done for you!