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Conditional Pardon

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15 NRSV

Today’s verses probably sound familiar. For those who worship in a liturgical church, we offer them each Sunday in the Lord’s Prayer.

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Though we know the words by rote, it’s good to pause and think about the depth of their true meaning.

First is to be mindful of our own sins. We don’t like to sin. We try not to sin. Yet, we still do. Paul sums it up well in Romans 7:19-20, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.” It is only by God’s grace that we are more than sinners.

Secondly, we are all in the same boat. We are all sinners. My sin is no less than yours, and yours is no less than mine. But thanks to Jesus, we are sinners in recovery.

Thirdly is God’s grace of forgiveness. Yes, we err and do what we do not want, but when we earnestly confess our imperfections and impurities–to God, He grants us pardon. The perfect and pure Jesus has paid the price of our sins upon the cross. The only cost to us is humbling ourselves and admitting our guilt.

Finally–and this is the most challenging part for us to appreciate and understand–the pardon we are guaranteed is conditional! Yes, God will forgive us, but first, we must forgive that person who has done us wrong. There is no room for revenge or grudging forgiveness in God’s kingdom.

Today’s verses are not the only place Jesus speaks about the extent of our forgiveness. We see it in His healing of the paralytic (Mt. 9:2-6), the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Mt. 18:21-35), and how we are to forgive fellow disciples (Lk. 17:3-4). “If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.” The common theme throughout is the imperativeness of forgiving others.

Father, we thank you for the forgiveness you offer. We come before you humbly and earnestly confessing that we do what we do not want; while we desire to do what is good, we instead do evil. We also acknowledge that while we rejoice in the idea of being forgiven ourselves, we struggle with the imperativeness of the forgiveness of others. Forgive all our sins and grant us willing hearts to pardon others with the same love and grace you extend us. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.


Pastor Tim

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