March 24, 2008

The Most Dangerous Words

Many of us say these most dangerous words every day - all of us, at least once a week. They are the most dangerous words that we regularly say, that we often almost casually toss out, never really thinking about their meaning.

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

As we forgive those who trespass against us. We are often tempted to think of God as a just judge, as a fair Father who doles out the punishment according to the crime. But is God really just?

Oh, no. To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, what would become of us if He were? God forgives when we ask for it, even when we truly do not deserve it. God offers us eternity with Him when nothing we could do in our finite lives could truly deserve that destiny.

And yet, in the Lord's Prayer, we ask for a deal. We ask for a just exchange - that we be forgiven only as much as we forgive others. Why would Jesus teach us to make such a dangerous arrangement? I think it is a recognition of our unworthiness and of God's great mercy. Near the end of the Lord's Prayer, we say to God:

Do not simply forgive me. I do not deserve your constant forgiveness. Forgive me only as much as I forgive others. Forgive me only as much as I remember Christ's words - that whatever I do to one of His people, I do to Him. When I show mercy to another, I am showing love to Christ, and, perhaps, I deserve love, then, in return.

I can never do enough to earn all that God freely offers me. I am a finite being trying to meet an infinite being; the math simply cannot work out. I am a child trying to use my pocket money to purchase a gift for Mother's Day. I cannot possibly pay the bill, but my Father will cover the balance. All I have to do is give what I have... I have to put that little handful of change on the counter, then Dad will cover the rest.

But I have to pay that little bit. I have to try. I cannot possibly deserve forgiveness. I cannot forgive enough to earn God's eternal forgiveness, but I have to try.

C. S. Lewis quote from: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/C._S._Lewis#Till_We_Have_Faces:_A_Myth_Retold

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