Today, let’s turn to the Lord’s prayer. In one petition, we say, according to one version, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive those indebted to us.”
I particularly like this more than saying transgressions or sins because it quantifies our guilt: We have a debt towards God greater than all the taxes of the world. Our neighbor may owe us a hundred days’ wages.
Like all large numbers, infinity is hard to grasp. The offense, the debt, that our sin creates towards God is hard for the human mind to grasp.
However, when we see that our father or mother, our sister or brother, perhaps your husband or wife, your sons or daughters, your neighbors, coworkers, or fellow citizen has offended you will often have in mind particular numbers of offenses and the exact punishment which you believe is due them. Perhaps you think they owe you a dollar for the soda you purchased for them. Perhaps you think you should kill them for not comprehending that you are a person of honor and dignity and should be respected as such.
The moment we think of the offense of a transgression or sin, we humans are apt to think that we deserve X in compensation for our trouble. We seek to justify our anger.
Maybe we think they started it, and we are just exacting a just revenge, at least in our minds. Perhaps in the back of your mind, the repeated offense has become chalked up against your relationship with that person. The weight of the offense becomes tremendous. You feel you MUST execute vengeance. Your self-righteous anger rises and your virtue falls.
Lord, have mercy!!
As long as we hold onto the burden of bitterness, we are unable to release the pain of the past. As long as we hold onto past offenses, we are unable to embrace fully the future Open Door. As long as we focus on what other people have or have not done for us, we will forget what God has done for us.
Here is the offense of the Gospel, the Good News. The Good News beckons us to reorient around God’s promise of freedom which was secured on the cross and in the resurrection. 100% guaranteed … if we will accept the challenge of living by trusting God rather than seeking to defend ourselves against other people all the time. The natural human heart revolts against this acts of mercy. It cannot comprehend how the death of Jesus could pay, once for all, the sins, the transgressions, the debts of mankind.
Perhaps you will say now, Oh, but I am a nice person. I don’t get angry. I just keep track of what they have done to me and don’t let it happen again.
Are you any better? Has not hatred overtaken your heart? You love those who love you and ignore the rest. Is this nothing more than a polite ISIS? Do not even the pagans do this much?
What makes Jesus so offensive is that he commands us to look for ways to risk our comfort. He could have just said, Meet once a week and remember the good times we had. Encourage each other and get better.
Instead, he said, Go, make disciples of all nations! Preach the Good News to all creation! Repentance and forgiveness of sins must be preached to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem, wait in the city … WAIT!!
The disciples were instructed to hang out in the very city where their Lord was murdered in cold blood in the cruelest manner possible. Wait? Wouldn’t it have been wiser to run? Why not go where there were receptive crowds? Why not preach about Moses preparing the way for the Messiah and hinting at the coming kingdom? No, they were commanded by the Holy Spirit to rebuke their own people for rejecting their own King and then to invite them to follow that King in being immersed as a pledge of a good conscience towards God. They did not manipulate or maneuver, they just said it like it was in a way that the people could understand.
That is boldness. Some admire and replicate that boldness. Some shy away and become ashamed of the Good News. Some attack such witnesses. Boldness comes at a price: love. Boldness that does not love is mere cruel boasting.
We have a choice before us: follow the humble way of peace or strive in violence. One is marked with 666 the mark of the beast; the other is marked with the stigma of Jesus.
Choose whom you will serve.
I worship Jesus.
Lord, have mercy on me and all who hate me.