Giving and forgiving
The Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11:2-4 is different from the traditional one we usually recite from Matthew 6. It is shorter with only five petitions, not the seven we know that include “thy will be done,” and “deliver us from evil.”
Notice another difference, its “forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive others who are indebted to us,” — not as we forgive, but for we forgive. Jesus is assuming that if the disciples are following him, and if we are his disciples we will be forgiving others.
In his book, “Free of Charge,” Miroslav Volf writes about giving and forgiving. Volf says God’s essential nature is about giving. That’s why he created the universe and created earth. God’s gift to creation is creation, and God has given it to us.
God created humans so that they may receive that gift of creation, the gift of life. Since God is a giving God, God is also a forgiving God, because we have harmed that gift of creation, sullied it with our own pride, our own desires, our turning away from God’s gift, sin that deserves punishment and condemnation.
Yet God’s nature is still to find a way to forgive, a way to reconcile us with God. Since we have been created in God’s image, we too need to have that same essential nature, so that as we take on Christ and as we accept God’s gift to us, the Holy Spirit, we too are to take on that essential nature of giving and forgiving. To be able to receive God’s gifts, we too need to be able to give and forgive. The same channel that we use to give and forgive is the one by which we can accept and receive God’s gifts and forgiveness.
One of my favorite illustrations is comparing the Sea of Galilee with the Dead Sea. The waters feed the Sea of Galilee from the springs and snows of Mount Hermon. The Sea is alive with fish, the water is pure and fresh, because the water flows out of the Sea and becomes the Jordan River flowing south between Israel and Jordan, ultimately into the Dead Sea. Since the water flows out of the Sea of Galilee it continues to be replenished by new water from those springs and snows. But the Dead Sea doesn’t have an outlet, the water just goes in there and ultimately evaporates, the sea gets saltier and saltier, fish can’t live and the water dies.
We need to be like the Sea of Galilee, so that to be able to receive and keep receiving we need to give, and to be able to receive forgiveness, we need to forgive.
Rev. Dale Brown is the pastor of Cumberland and Guinea Presbyterian churches. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.