Lectio Divina is a Latin term meaning ‘holy reading.’ This centuries old practice of prayer and meditation involves reading passages of scripture several times. All the time listening to what God might be telling you through what you read or hear. Earlier this year, I was introduced to this spiritual practice and have recently begun practicing it with a close friend.
One of the passages Pete and I read recently was the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). While we read and reread it, we talked about what words or verses had impacted us. Pete wondered allowed why Jesus had asked for God’s “kingdom to come soon” (v10a). As God incarnate, couldn’t He have ordered God’s kingdom to arrive at any time? My query came a few verses later.
In verse twelve, Jesus prays for God to “forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.” As I read and listened to this passage, I realized how soul shaking this idea is. If I ask God to forgive me for my sins in the same way that I forgive those who sin against me, I’d better do a pretty thorough job of forgiving other people.
When he walked around town, Jesus knew how to forgive people thoroughly. Whether it involved someone being healed (Mark 2:1-12, Luke 5:17-26), caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), or dying for the people He was forgiving, (Luke 23:34, 23:43) Jesus was in the business of offering absolute forgiveness. Instead of offering absolute forgiveness however, we may offer partial forgiveness to others, but expect absolute forgiveness from God. An example of partial forgiveness versus God’s absolute forgiveness is found in Matthew 18:21-35 where Jesus tells the story of the unmerciful servant.
In the story, Jesus talked about a banker who came to collect his dues, but the debtor was unable to pay him. The debtor begged, “please have patience with me sir, and I will repay you everything.” Instead of charging interest, the banker forgave the man outright of his debt. The forgiven debtor must have been at least a little grateful. But instead of expressing joy at what had just happened, he pounced with rage upon a colleague of his who owed him a tiny percentage of what he had once owed.
The second debtor pleaded, “Please, please have patience with me sir, and I will repay you everything.”
Instead of forgiving the man, or simply adding interest to the man’s debt, he demanded that the man be tortured until he paid the measly amount he owed.
After hearing rumors of this, the banker then called the forgiven debtor into his office to set the record straight. “Didn’t I let you off the hook from paying me that huge debt? What is this I hear about you torturing a man who could not pay you? That’s it, your debt has been reinstated, and you must pay me every cent!”
The morel of Christ’s story is known as the Golden Rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31) Or, as I heard recently from a colleague of mine: “Forgive me as I forgive.” Mr. Stevens calls this the “High Five” rule as each of the five fingers corresponds to a word in his paraphrase.
We often forgive people in light and flippant ways. And we believe that we must sugar coat our wrongs so that forgivers may consider forgiveness as an easy thing to do. But the forgiveness you offer should be based entirely upon the amount of forgiveness you need. As we live in whatever season we find ourselves in, may we forgive as the banker forgave. May we remember that forgiveness is something that everybody needs, and may we be generous to give it in full.