FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS
The Scriptures tell us that when we pray, one of the things we should pray for is “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” What are these debts and why is there such importance placed on forgiving and being forgiven that this prayer is included in what we called the Lord’s Prayer?
The answer will surprise you.
Spiritual leaders everywhere teach how important it is to forgive, and you no doubt have heard how harmful it is to harbor resentment, bitterness and hatred within you. But the Biblical command to pray “forgive us our debts” is very profound. At the end of this article you will hopefully be convinced of the critical nature of this passage of scripture, and of its utmost importance.
The scriptures define God as love (1 John 4:8). We are the temple of God and the spirit that is God dwells in us (1 Cor. 3:16). Thus, the love of God dwells in us. In fact, the scriptures tell us that “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts” (Rom. 5:5).
Well, if the love of God dwells in us, then why is it that love seems to be absent in so many of our lives? For example, it seems the most popular sports are those in which humans are physically attacking each other. Soccer, boxing and football, three of the more popular sports in our world, are popular because of their violent nature. The Internet is rife with organizations that get great notoriety and material profit as a result of our thirst for gossip about others. We often get great pleasure out of seeing the misfortune of others, especially if those others have themselves engaged in harmful acts towards others. The call to forgive is generally a foreign term that is hard for us to identify with. Loving others — which includes the ability to forgive one another — equal to love of self (also called “unconditional love”) is something we give lip service to, but our hearts are far from this most important concept of being able to forgive.
The Biblical Definition of “Born Again”
Much of religion believes that all you have to do is confess Christ and you are born again. Unfortunately, this belief completely obscures the true Biblical meaning of being born again.
God is a spirit. The Bible tells us that love is a spirit (2 Tim. 1:7), and so love is the spirit that God is. This is critical to understand because it makes the Biblical definition of being born again crystal clear. The book of John tells us:
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God (John 3:5).
I will deal with the concept of being “born of water” in a future article, but if you have been following me to this point, then you understand that with regard to being “born of the spirit,” that love is the spirit that we are to be born of. This is made even more plain by the following scripture:
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love (1 John 4:7-8) (emphasis mine).
Being born again is all about love. To be born of God is to be “born again,” born of the spirit. However, there is no love without the ability to forgive. This love is the transformation of mind talked about in Romans 12:2:
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
As human beings, we have to learn how to love one another. The law of God (and this law is as immutable as the law of gravity) is summed up in one word – love.
Love is the great power of God.
Now what does all this have to do with what the Bible means by “forgive us our debts?” I will quote from the New International Version, which I believe better captures the essence of this teaching than any other:
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law (Rom. 13:8 NIV).
The command to love one another appears 12 times in the King James Version New Testament. It is a Biblical command. The problem with this command is that it is not natural for us to love in this way. In fact, it is very difficult for us in our natural states to understand spiritual things, and love is a spiritual virtue, and includes the ability to forgive. Therefore, this massive debt usually goes unpaid.
Indeed, forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
The Bible tells us that love never fails (1 Cor. 13:8). Just observing the breaking down of society on many levels as a result of our general lack of love for one another, combined with the understanding of love as a virtue that always succeeds (because it never fails), is very revelatory. The wars we are currently experiencing on our globe are the result of perpetual gross hatred. It is a vicious cycle that always comes back to us, and is why society is degenerating. We can, and indeed we must, turn it around. It is the responsibility of each one of us, individually. Love is a force that cannot be resisted when it is appropriately exercised. Thus, the power exists within each one of us (it is God IN US) to reverse the fortunes of our globe by exercising unconditional love to all. Forgiveness is one of the most powerful attributes of love. If we want to experience forgiveness, we MUST learn to forgive.
If you want to progress spiritually, then, it is very critical to understand the importance of learning how to love and forgive. Perhaps you have never been exposed to real love and forgiveness. Most of us have not. Maybe your parents didn’t have the capacity to show you unconditional love and forgiveness. Many of us grew up in abusive environments where there was a general failure to love and forgive one another. We generally carry our experiences and circumstances forward through life, and so the lack of love and inability to forgive is perpetuated in a vicious cycle. We become bitter and resentful. We may harbor hatred for those who abused us. In this state, we want to neither love nor forgive.
Do Unto Others …
It is not natural for humans to love unconditionally. This is why the concept of transformation is so important.
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets (Matt 7:12).
Why do we seek to judge and condemn our fellow brothers and sisters for their wrongdoings, as though we ourselves have done no wrong? Have you ever done anything in your life that you deeply regret? Maybe you’ve done something very egregious to someone that has not yet been exposed. Perhaps you have some habit that if others found out about would be devastating to you? How would you feel if your deepest secrets were exposed? How would you like all your “dirty laundry” to be aired out in public?
I’d say chances are pretty good you would NOT appreciate that one bit. You would probably be devastated. And yet, we do this all the time to our fellow human beings. As soon as someone does something we feel is “stupid” or “dumb,” or even if that person hurts someone else, we immediately want to seek out someone to tell it to. Sometimes we, in all our glorious and self-righteous perfection, bash and blast that person, making him or her feel incredibly small. In most cases, we do this without even giving it a second thought.
When we do this, we have no idea what we are doing to ourselves:
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap (Gal. 6:7).
This law of sowing and reaping is a law that is as alive as the law of gravity. The results are automatic. Drop a rock off a building and there is no doubt what direction it is going to take. The law of gravity determines the direction of the rock once it leaves your hands. It is law. It is immutable. It cannot change, and it cannot be changed.
The same is true of the spiritual law of love. What you do to others boomerangs back to you, in most cases exponentially. No one gets away with anything, even if it sometimes appears that way. In general, you should NEVER do to someone else what you do not want to experience yourself, because as sure as night follows day, everything you do to others – whether good or bad – returns to you multiplied.
I had intended to post this article a couple of days ago, but I’m glad I waited, because I read a quote this morning by Mahatma Gandhi that is tailor-made for this article. It is a powerful quote:
When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it – always.
Once again, this is all immutable law. This law actually leaves us free to express unconditional love to those who don’t appear to deserve it. We are free to forgive those who do horrible things, because life itself is going to take vengeance on those folks. This is how the law of love works.
There Are None Righteous
We are ALL guilty of not loving enough. In general, our love is conditional. We love those who love us, but those who don’t show us love generally garner our wrath. When people wrong us, we are quick to seek revenge, and to shout it to the rooftops, telling everybody within earshot of our voices what he or she has done to us. Rather than treat others the way we want to be treated, we generally treat others the way they treat us.
This is the spiritual kiss of death.
The principle of covering one’s nakedness comes into play here. When we seek to reveal what we consider to be the true nature of others, it usually boomerangs back to us, sooner or later.
What we sow, we also reap. There are no exceptions to this spiritual law, despite any appearances to the contrary.
We must cease answering hatred with hatred. The only way to overcome hatred is with love. Don’t be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good. It takes a certain kind of inner strength to do this. This inner strength is Christ IN YOU. If you feel devoid of this power, pray for it. Asking for the power to love is the single greatest desire you could possibly express. Love is in you. Let prayer bring it out of you. The power to love (or the power of God) is what the Bible calls “Christ” (1 Cor. 1:24).
Karma (the law of sowing and reaping) often has a vicious sense of humor. Once again, the key here is don’t do to anyone else anything that you would not want done to you, because what you do to others, you will eventually experience yourself.
We have to learn how to love and forgive unconditionally. Unconditional love and forgiveness is the greatest act we can practice toward our fellow man. Unconditional love and forgiveness for all is a self-cleansing act that you won’t understand until you exercise it. That doesn’t mean allow yourself to be abused, but you don’t want to render evil for evil. You do want to forgive those who wrong you in some way. There is great healing in forgiveness. We have a great example of this in the book of Luke:
… Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do … (Luke 23:34).
Love is spiritual law. You have to do it in order to understand it. Love is a debt that we owe each other, and is a debt that, if we are wise, we will pay. But we won’t be able to pay it as perfectly as we should. Nor do we receive love from others to the extent that we need it, as we all do.
This is why we pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
Once again this is Paul Young saying, flee from the crowd and dwell with the Christ within you. Christ IN YOU, your hope of glory.