And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. -Matthew 6:12 (HCSB)
The literal translation of the verse above is forgive us our ‘debts’ as we forgive our ‘debtors.’ The same goes for sin. The New Living Translation says sin instead of ‘debt.’ The dynamic Good News Translation and also the Contemporary English Version both use the term ‘wrongs.’ The idea is the same. When we sin, we are in debt to God. That debt must be paid. For those of us who have embraced Jesus, the account has been squared.
I recently watched one of several ‘Q & A’ sessions with John MacArthur in which there was some discussion of forgiveness. Dr. MacArthur referred to Philemon and its importance in contemplating and understanding the importance and necessity of forgiveness. Obviously, forgiveness is central to the Christian faith and something that takes place at the time of regeneration, when man reaches out to embrace God and answer His call to repentance and salvation.
Paul writes to Philemon on behalf of a runaway slave whom he decides to send back to him called Onesimus. Paul has become like a father to him and wishes him to return to Onesimus as an equal in Christ. Of course, for this to happen there must first be forgiveness offered and received (as we must have from God when joining His family).
Finding forgiveness from fellow Christians should be something automatically offered, especially when one considers how God has dealt with us — despite our sin nature. Sadly, we are flawed humans who still struggle with the sin nature of the flesh and therefore are in need of constant reminders of how we really don’t differ from our brothers and sisters. Often past sins are thrown in our faces, either by ourselves or other believers. I suspect often with Satan’s help. I think that many Christians have formed a list of unforgivable sins that is of their invention, not of God’s. It is all too easy to forget what John, under inspiration from the Holy Spirit, wrote so long ago: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. -1 John 1:9. Scripture here plainly tells us that it’s not just some of our sins or some of the time. The operative word is ‘all.’ We simply must confess. Elsewhere the Scripture stresses a serious need for repentance; however, repentance must be preceded by an understanding in our heart that we have transgressed God’s law. A sincere confession will always bring with it the remorse of committing sin and a desire to turn from it. Once authentic confession and repentance has taken place, the following takes place: As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. -Psalm 103:12
That said, let us live as people forgiven, ever mindful of that fact and grateful for what He has done for us in Christ. Reminded of that, we should be easily able to be effective witnesses for Christ to a lost and desperate world.
And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. -Jeremiah 31:34