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Pastor: Harry M. Krolus

           FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US
                                                               MATTHEW 6:12

When I was growing up, I had a great uncle, my mother’s uncle, who lived across the street. His name was Conrad Lang, but we all called him Uncle Connert. Uncle Connert never married and, from what I understand, had a pretty good job with the B&O railroad.  Because of these two circumstances, Uncle Connert had more money than anyone else in the family.
Not only did he buy a shore house in Severna Park, just off the Magathy River before Severna Park became Severna Park, he also bought a number of row homes in the neighborhood in which we lived, the majority of which were occupied by members of the family. For members of the family who desired to own their own homes, my mom and dad included, Uncle Connert would lend them the money to buy and charge not a penny in interest.
Even as he got up in years, Uncle Connert was always willing to lend a helping hand if needed. Such was the case when my sister Darlene got married. She and her husband Joe wanted to buy the row house just across the street from us, but they had no money. Uncle Connert came through again, loaning them the money without interest.
It was not long after that, perhaps a year or two, that Uncle Connert died. This meant that my aunt Catherine and uncle Vernon would inherit the loan. But instead of continuing to collect on the no interest loan, they decided just to forgive the rest of the balance. Dar and Joe didn’t have to do a thing. They didn’t have to wash my aunt and uncle’s car. They didn’t have to mop their floors. They didn't even have to clean the bathroom. The debt was forgiven, no strings attached.
As we take a look at this petition of the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” the first question that we must ask is this: What does it mean to forgive? Here I would have us consider the following three passages.
Psalm 103:9-12 “He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”
Hebrews 10:16-17 “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”
As we put these passages together, we observe that there are two fundamental elements of forgiveness. The first is that it is unconditional. Once granted there is no more to be done. There are no conditions to be kept. The second element to forgiveness is that forgiveness also means to forget. This does not mean that the offense is stricken from memory. What it does mean is that the offense will not be held in the back pocket to be used at an opportune time, no matter how great the temptation. The offense will never be used as leverage or ever again against the offending person. It is to be as if it never happened.
Another aspect to God’s forgiveness that must never be forgotten or taken for granted is that it was earned. We read in Hebrews 9:22, “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Our forgiveness was earned for us by the shedding of Jesus’ blood on the cross of Calvary. God’s forgiveness is offered to us freely, without any strings attached, but we must never forget that it came at a dear, dear price.
This petition also entreats us to face up to our own sinfulness. The Bible defines sin as the breaking, or transgression, of God's law (1 John 3:4). It is also described as disobedience or rebellion against God (Deuteronomy 9:7), as well as independence from God. The original translation means to miss the mark of God's holy standard of righteousness. In a nutshell, sin is defined by God. It is anything that runs contrary to his will, including things that we failed to do, but should have done as well.
This brings up another important point. As we pray this petition, not only are we called on to recognize our sinfulness, we must also be repentant. Yes, God wants to forgive us; and yes, our forgiveness was earned by Jesus on Calvary’s cross; but such forgiveness is not ours unless it is received through repentant faith. This is why both  the ministries of John the baptists and Jesus were characterized as ministries of repentance.
Think of it in this way. If someone goes out and buys you a gift, that gift is bought and paid for, isn't it? But the gift isn’t yours until it is received. This is what repentant faith does. It receives the forgiveness of the cross.
The second part of this petition, “as we forgive those who trespass against us,” is basically a request that we be enabled to forgive others in the same way that God has forgiven us. The way the sentence is constructed in the Greek, forgiveness is to be seen as a constant flow. As God’s forgiveness is received by us, it is to flow through us to others.
This is not always easy, as most of us probably know. Remember the disciples asked Jesus about this. They basically asked, how many times to I have to forgive my brother? And Jesus tells them that as long as the offender sincerely asks for forgiveness you gotta keep on forgiving.
Because of our sinful natures forgiving someone who has offended us greatly or forgiving someone who has hurt someone we love is most difficult. But, as we remember the grace we have received from God, with God’s help we can do it. I like to compare difficult forgiving to the ringing of an old church bell. When you stop pulling on the rope the bell doesn’t just stop. it takes a while, but it does eventually come to a rest. The same holds true with difficult forgiving. We just have to stop pulling on the rope.
In a dream, Martin Luther found himself being attacked by Satan. The devil unrolled a long scroll containing a list of Luther's sins, and held it before him. On reaching the end of the scroll Luther asked the devil, "Is that all?" "No," came the reply, and a second scroll was thrust in front of him. Then, after a second came a third. But now the devil had no more. "You've forgotten something," Luther exclaimed triumphantly. "Quickly write on each of them, 'The blood of Jesus Christ God's son cleanses us from all sins.’"
By grace we are a forgiven people through faith; a people made worthy of the kingdom of heaven. May it be our prayer that we live in the light of this grace every single day that we also might be willing to forgive others in the manner in which we have been forgiven.