For the last couple of weeks, we have spent some time being reminded about how we can be empowered to let go of our past and live in Christ with confidence today while having the hope of tomorrow. Whether it be the “forgetting and reaching” of Philippians 3:13, or the acceptance of God’s complete forgiveness for those in Christ, which we considered last Sunday from 1st John 1:5-10, God wants us to live in freedom from our past. He knows that to experience the true nature of the abundant life Jesus speaks of in John 10:10, our past truly needs to be water under the bridge…our bridge.
With that said, I want to consider one more idea when it comes to the image of “water under the bridge”; that is, the issue of our need to forgive others, something I spoke on just a few months ago. My desire to speak about it again has been stirred by my study of what Jesus taught the disciples early on in His ministry concerning how to pray. Remember these words from Jesus, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). So critical to the disciples walk that Jesus would go on to say in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” This whole line of thought begs the question, “Am I willing to forgive those in my past?”
And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but
they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple.
When Jesus taught about prayer, He included within it those words that speak of the disciple’s willingness to embrace the task of forgiving others because of their own forgiveness by God. This word debt is self-explanatory, caring the meaning of that which is owed. It drives home the simple fact that someone can “owe me” because of something they have done. Saul owed the early church big time! Families split, lives lost, so much hurt they suffered and now, you want us to give you a big hug and sing “Kumbaya, My Lord” together. It’s not happening…right? The debt Saul (soon to be named Paul) owed was enormous and virtually impossible to pay back. The only solution for him, for them, was God’s road of forgiveness. It is a road that must be traveled.
This is why, although I know it is a command, I see it as a necessity, essential to the wellbeing of the disciple. It is not simply something God is commanding us to do, but there is a reason behind it. When the actions of others are allowed to build up in our lives, not permitting them to be water under our bridge, we change. How one might ask? Well, the decision to not forgive another only enables the heart to become bitter, defiling it over time (Hebrews 12:15). The scary thing is, that we often times don’t even realize it is happening. Maybe that is why Jesus taught His disciples then, and us now, to be mindful of our need to forgive in prayer. I can understand the words of the apostle found in Luke 17:5 after Jesus taught again on the subject of forgiveness, “Increase our faith.”
To be forgiving, we must walk in confidence of our own forgiveness. Paul would exhort the church in Colosse to be forgiving “even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:13). So, do you walk in His marvelous forgiveness today? If so, is there someone in your past who owes you a debt? God invites you to release that debt and live fully in the beauty of forgiveness.