Matthew 6:12 (ESV)My debts are already forgiven. This is the message of the New Testament. Good News! The debt you owe has been paid. So why is Jesus teaching me to ask for forgiveness of my debts when He has already covered these debts on the cross?
12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
When Jesus died on the cross, he did pay the eternal price for my debts. If I claim Jesus as my Lord and believe he rose from the dead for my justification, then I am saved from eternal death into eternal life. However, I still manage to sin everyday. I still manage to choose my way over God's ways in my thoughts and actions. My eternal destiny is secure, but my fellowship with my Lord and my fellowship with my brother and sisters in Christ is hindered.
1 John 1:5-10 (ESV)I think where I often fail in this part of my prayer life is meditating long enough for God to reveal to me where I am missing the mark. When I do take the time to listen to God's Spirit in me, He does remind me were I fall short of the glory of God. For me, these usually fall into the categories of pride and selfishness.
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Psalms 139:23-24 (ESV)Prior to thinking about this post and thinking about what to write, I probably would have told you that I don't have a hard time with forgiving others. I don't lay awake at night harboring ill will towards anyone for a wrong that's been done to me. I'm an extremely easy going guy and I let most things run off my back. If I do get upset, I get over it quickly.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
However, this word "debt" is interesting. If I truly forgive someone of a debt (a wrong done to me) then the next time they offend me, shouldn't my reaction be the same as if it is the first time they've offended me? My problem is, if someone does me wrong a second time, I still remember the first time and I am doubly offended. Did I really forgive that first debt?
For example, a co-worker upsets me by saying something brash and condescending. I'm upset but because it's my nature, I get over it and I don't dwell on it. However, a month later this person says or does something again that irritates me. It's not just the latest incident that gets under my skin. It's that incident and all the previous incidents. It's not one debt but an accumulation of debt. I've never really wiped clean the previous debt.
I don't know about you, but I don't think under my own power I can really give someone a clean slate over and over, whether I tell myself I forgive them or not. Each wrong is still accumulated in my thought process. The debt increases, it never really returns to zero.
Just as the clearing of my debt to God is only possible by the grace of God, my ability to erase the debt caused when others hurt me is also only available by the grace of God.