Forgiveness: H.C. Lord’s Day 51

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 51

Q 126: What does the fifth petition mean? 
A 126: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” means:

Because of Christ’s blood, do not hold against us, poor sinners that we are, any of the sins we do or the evil that constantly clings to us.

Forgive us just as we are fully determined, as evidence of your grace in us, to forgive our neighbors.
 
The theme of forgiveness is arguably one of the strongest themes that run through Scripture.  It isn’t any wonder, then, that this theme also comes up Jesus’ teaching on prayer too.  If God is all about forgiveness of sin and working that out through history, leading up to Jesus Christ, then it is something that we need to be thinking about in our time and relationship with God.  Simply put, neither would really exist without God’s forgiveness extended to us in Jesus Christ.
 
One of the biggest questions that come out of this petition in the Lord’s prayer has to do with our salvation: “haven’t all of our sins been forgiven already?”  The answer, of course, is yes.  When Jesus Christ died on the cross, He took on the sins of the whole world and His righteousness was imputed to us.  This transaction was a once for all event that took place with lasting impacts and implications throughout the entire universe.
 
However, you and I both know that though our sins have been forgiven, we are not ourselves sinless in this life.  We are made righteous by Christ and yet we continue on in our rebellion against God, sinning all the time, every day.  And, while there is no way for us to lose our Salvation once it is granted to us, we are called to better things in our lives and that is part of what we are acknowledging here.
 
A good way to think about it, suggested by Kevin DeYoung, author of the book The Good News We Almost Forgot, a book that has been our guide through this past year, is the parent-child relationship.  If your child has set chores to do each day, the expectation is that those would be done and that you wouldn’t have to do them.  Let’s say that one day your child didn’t do them and you had to do them yourself.  Obviously, your child has broken the agreement, the relationship you have experiences some strain, but it isn’t something you would disown them for nor would you withdraw your love from them.  But disobedience has occurred, and something must be done.
 
When you decide to confront your child about it, he or she could admit their guilt, sorrowfully apologize, and your relationship would be restored.  This is what you would desire as a parent.  If the child blew you off and/or continued in their disobedience, the relationship you have would experience greater amounts of strain and a distance would be created.  You would never stop loving them, even though they were continually pushing away from you.
 
This is how it is with us and God as well.  God desires that our relationship would be restored.  For us, that means a continual confession of our sins and desire to do better next time.  We aren’t condemned, Scripture assures us of this.  God will not withdraw His love, Scripture assures us of this as well.  But restoration needs to take place and, for that to happen both forgiveness (from God) and repentance (from us) are necessary.
 
When we sin, we feel guilty.  This is often called this a “conviction” of the Holy Spirit.  We needn’t carry that guilt around us as an identity.  Rather, we respond to this conviction by repentance and receive/acknowledge anew the forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ.
 
Jesus teaching goes beyond the simple fact of sinning and repenting in our relationship with God though.  As is true with many things in the Christian life, we are called to extend the love and grace that we experience beyond ourselves to those around us.  The forgiven heart is a forgiving heart.  When we experience God’s forgiveness, the deep cleansing and washing that takes place inside of us, and the unmerited grace extended to us in our lives, we cannot help but want to share that love with others as well.
 
Does this mean that if we don’t forgive someone that we will lose our salvation?  Certainly not.  There are all sorts of circumstances in which forgiveness can be difficult due to extensive pain, lack of remorse from the other party, and so much more.  However, the Scriptural call is a trajectory toward forgiveness and restoration and the heart that experiences forgiveness longs to be a heart that forgives as well.  It may take a lot of God’s work on our hearts to get us there, but God’s desire for our lives is that we who are forgiven become forgivers, continuing to break the bondage of sin and encountering a deeper understanding of God’s love and forgiveness to us along the way.

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