In the middle of the Lord’s prayer, there is an interesting section where Jesus talks about the connection between God’s forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of others:
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
— Matthew 6:12
I have often wondered why Jesus put forgiveness in the middle of this prayer. Why would Jesus command others to forgive? I understand the wisdom behind the message. I understand why Jesus would want his children to let go of past pain, but why does he command it? And then it hit me. The reason is pretty simple: if you can’t forgive others after God has forgiven you, then you simply don’t get it. A person who doesn’t forgive others doesn’t comprehend what God has done for them.
Jesus illustrates this for us in the story of the unforgiving debtor. He tells a story in Matthew 18 of a man that was forgiven an incredible debt of money. This amount was so much that the original audience would have laughed at the absurdity of such a high sum. Yet the man was forgiven of his debt.
In the story, the forgiven man is given a chance to pay it forward and extend grace in the exact same way, but with a much smaller amount. Filled with gratitude, thankful for his good fortune, and overwhelmed with gratitude, do you know how the man responded? He didn’t forgive. Let me say that again. The man did not forgive. The obvious conclusion is this: the forgiven man didn’t grasp what had been done for him.
“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
— Luke 7:47
Forgiveness can be difficult, but God gave us the ultimate demonstration when he forgave our sins against an eternal God.