Forgiving Debt (Matthew 6:12), Sermon on the Mount Series, Part 8

In 2005, Jameel McGee was arrest for dealing drugs by Officer Andrew Collins. McGee insisted he was innocent, but was convicted and sentenced to several years in prison. Four years later, it was discovered that Officer Collins had falsified several police reports, including McGee’s. McGee was exonerated. Yet, nothing could give him back those years in prison. McGee told himself he would hurt Collins, when he got his chance. And that chance came five years later. Both Officer Collins and McGee found themselves working at the same café. If faced with the person who stole four precious years of your life, what would you do?

 When we pray, “Forgive us our debts…” in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:12), we admit our spiritual poverty before our Heavenly Father. Unfortunately, the church is quick to point to the sin that occurs outside its walls and slow to admit the sin that lurks within. Did Jesus not say “whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” (Matthew 25:31-46)? When we fail to provide the basic needs – a cup of water, something to eat, shelter – to the least among us, do we not incur a great debt with our Heavenly Father? In prayer, we confess our sin to him and are assured of his forgiveness.
There is a story of a small town, where people needed to travel great distances to get what they needed. An opportunist business man decided to set up shop there and acquired a loan to do so from a local bank. But, the people of the town were poor, often unable to settle their accounts. Many months of loan payments were missed. The bank was going to foreclose on the business, when the man begged for leniency. To his astonishment, the bank forgave the entire debt. Yet, later that very day he demanded his customers to settle accounts with him. He’d refuse them even a single thimble of flour, if they did not.
The reformer Martin Luther once said, “he who forgives not is held under greater guilt that he who did wrong.” Are we not to forgive others as God has freely forgiven us?
Jameel McGee came face to face with the crooked cop that stole years of his life. When ex-Officer Collins recognized McGee, he said to him, “Honestly, I have no explanation, all I can do is say I’m sorry.” For McGee, that was all he needed, and he forgave Collins. The two continued to work together and became very good friends.
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