by Grace Hunter

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6:12 NIV

This week we focus on our individual and corporate need for forgiveness, as well as our individual and corporate need to forgive other people. The course of action in this verse is vital. This is a petition: it is an asking of God to forgive us of our sins, of our misdeeds, of our offenses done against God and against others. There are many Psalms that express petition in beautiful and expressive language. Look at David’s language in Psalm 51:

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me. Psalm 51:1-3

Did you notice that He asks God for his personal forgiveness? David wrote this Psalm and prayed this prayer after committing adultery with Bathsheba and after committing the murder of her husband. David had definitely sinned against other people in this situation, but first he asks for forgiveness of God. He acknowledges that God alone can forgive our sins.  

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:16-17

In this section of Psalm 51, David’s humility is clearly expressed. We are not able to seek forgiveness from God or from anyone else if we do not first see that sin clearly in ourselves. But sin rarely only affects us. Usually at least one other person has been affected, hurt, or offended by our sinful actions. So, back to the order of Jesus’ prayer. Once we have asked for our own forgiveness, then we need to acknowledge and ask for forgiveness for “our” sins, those that have been committed by us as a family, as a city, as a nation, as a people.

You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.

Relent, O LORD ! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us;
establish the work of our hands for us-
yes, establish the work of our hands. Psalm 90:8, 13-14, 17 NIV

Moses prayed for the Nation of Israel in Psalm 90. He acknowledged God as the one who can forgive, who can show compassion, and the one who can restore the relationship between God and His people, Israel.

Only after we have asked for forgiveness, are we able to see clearly, and are able to offer forgiveness to those who have hurt, offended or sinned against us.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 NIV


Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.