One of the hardest things in life to do is to forgive.
Much like those of you reading this post, I have my fair share of experiences in life where someone hurt me. Betrayed me. Falsely accused me. Spoke badly about me when I wasn’t around. Hurt me. I feel like when knowledge about stuff like that comes to our attention, it feels like someone has ripped our soul out. You feel raw.
But the sad thing is that I know I’ve done the same to people in my life. It’s not unusual for me to go through a season every now and again where I’m overcome with feeling so terrible about the bad things I’ve done to others. And also, about the ways that I have forsaken and done wrong in His sight. And generally, I want to make things right, but not enough to forsake my own pride.
The thing that makes asking for forgiveness so difficult is humility. There is never a spot you could place yourself in where you feel more vulnerable than the place of asking forgiveness. You are coming to grips with who you are, what you’ve done, and it isn’t pretty.
I think humility lies at the heart of the next part of Jesus’ model prayer, the Lord’s Prayer.
“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12, NIV
Jesus includes as part of his prayer two forgiveness elements. For one, we need to ask God for forgiveness of our sin.
I don’t think Jesus is trying to make a grandiose theological statement here. I don’t think that we need to worry about getting every single sin confessed to God, otherwise we’ll not be allowed into heaven when we die. A belief in Christ and His saving work for us is way more powerful than that.
However, I do think that Jesus wants us to be reminded of the fact that we are sinners before God. Not to guilt us. Not to make us feel bad. It serves as a reminder of who we are. As I go about living my life, it’s really easy for me to see the bad stuff around me and start to get pretty cocky. I start thinking that I’m a pretty good person. I don’t use up nearly as much of God’s grace as that person or those people over there. But nothing could be farther from the truth. The moment I start to elevate myself at all, I’m taking a first step toward self-righteousness. Toward pride. I’m taking a step toward thinking that I can save myself.
And the second part of this equation is equally important: if we are going to consistently ask forgiveness from God, we need to extend it toward others. In fact, if we don’t extend grace and forgiveness toward others, it shows that we have a pretty flawed understanding of the grace that God has extended toward us (see the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:21-35). It shows that we haven’t understood the depth to which God has forgiven us.
So it is that forgiveness needs to be a consistent part of my prayer life. It humbles me before God, and gives me the perspective to live in a humble way toward others, extending forgiveness. I’d love to challenge you to make that a consistent part of your prayer life this week. Pray every day for God to offer His forgiveness toward you, and see if it doesn’t make a difference in the way you extend forgiveness to those around you!