Prayer and forgiveness

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Old Man Praying

Unforgiveness is not so much an act which cannot be forgiven, but rather it is a sign that we have not left the universe of law and obligation. It is a sign that we have rejected the kingdom of God, which is a kingdom of grace.

One of my foundational ideas is that the scriptures truly come alive when viewed from a perspective of grace. I’ve been thinking about the so-called “Lord’s Prayer” lately in this light.

9 “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.
10 ‘Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.’
14 “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
15 “But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
(Matthew 6:9-15, NASB).

Isn’t it interesting that the one thing He focuses on after giving us this prayer is the point about forgiveness? What kind of strange teaching is this? He tells us to ask for forgiveness, and then He says, we ought not expect to get it unless we are forgiving “men.” I have to forgive Hitler or else I won’t be forgiven? What is He saying here?

The kingdom of God is a kingdom of grace. He sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. He pays the guys who worked 5 minutes the same as the guys who worked all day. He sent Jonah to preach to the evil Ninevites. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Everything in the kingdom of God is a gift, and the currency is simple gratitude. All is done in love. As John says in his first epistle:

10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
(1 John 4:10, 11, NASB).

If the kingdom of God is going to manifest in our lives, the manifestation is going to be grace. As I have written before, love is not so much about me producing love, but about me recognizing the love God has for someone.

So, if we have left the universe of law and obligation, if the kingdom of God has come to us, we do not labor under the idea that someone must merit our approval. They are approved, they are made just, because Jesus is their justifier, and if they are a self-justifier, then they will stand under their own judgement, not mine:

17 “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.
18 “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19 “And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil.
(John 3:17-19, NASB).

Unforgiveness is not so much an act which cannot be forgiven, but rather it is a sign that we have not left the universe of law and obligation. It is a sign that we have rejected the kingdom of God, which is a kingdom of grace. Either we believe we ourselves must self-justify, and everyone else must as well, or we believe we are justified by Christ, and everyone else as well.

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