The Lord’s Prayer (Part 5)
Part 5 of The Lord’s Prayer by Rev. Billy Kristanto.
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” This part is not teaching that the forgiveness of God is dependent on our having forgiven others. God does not forgive us because we forgive others. But instead if we have really experienced the love of God, the forgiveness of God, that will be evident in our willingness to forgive others. Forgiveness is the final expression of love. Why? Because forgiveness is dealing with others’ failures, dealing with pain caused by others. True love is tested to that stage. Lord Jesus Himself, when He was on the cross, said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” He covered up others’ sins; this is the fullness of love. Loving God also must be tested in a likewise condition (although the measure for each person varies). Sometimes God acts as if He is taking away all His blessings from us. Job, for example, felt a deep loneliness; could he still love God in that condition? When someone hurts us, can we still express our love for him? If we can’t, perhaps we have not yet understood the love of God, who has forgiven us.
Forgiveness is always two-way; it cannot be one-way–we only ask forgiveness from God and then we are not willing to forgive others. This only shows that we do not understand the greatness of our own sin before God, and thus we do not understand the greatness of the love of God for us, either. Therefore it is difficult for us to forgive others if we see the greatness of their sin. One who see other people’s sin as greater than his own, finds it hard to forgive them because he thinks, “I am better than him, this man’s sin is too much to be forgiven!” He doesn’t realise the greatness of his own sin before God. Many Christians who were used mightily by God also had to go through God’s molding in this aspect. Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch, once went through an ordeal due to the Nazis. She survived the war and struggled very hard to forgive the Germans. She almost made a vow not to step on German land for the rest of her life. But God changed her, molded her, until she could forgive those who had done evil to her. She eventually went back to the country and God used her mightily. Her testimony has blessed many people. Corrie ten Boom, a giant of faith who was recorded in the history of the Church, had to go through such molding. We need to learn to experience such molding.
Our problem is that we tend to be sensitive when someone hurts us, but we are not sensitive at all when we hurt other people. The problem of sinful men is this: we tend to be sensitive to something if it concerns our lives, but when it concerns others’ lives, we lack the same sensitivity. In healthy spiritual growth, it should be the opposite. We should be more sensitive to our wrongdoings done to others, and less sensitive to others’ wrongdoings done to us. How can we be less sensitive towards others’ wrongdoings? Because of sufficient love. Sufficient love covers up everything–this was what Jesus Christ did on the cross. He was not ignorant of the fact that those people were sinning by crucifying Him on the cross. They were not ignorant of the fact that they were crucifying Jesus; they did it consciously. But Jesus said that they didn’t know what they did. He covered up their sins. He covered up their sins because He Himself is the perfect Love. As a Christian, we need to grow in this aspect.
When God molds us through circumstances where we can learn to forgive others, we must obey Him. If we run away from these circumstances, one day this molding will still have to happen. Let us learn to love others even to the stage of forgiving. In forgiving we express love to the final stage as the Lord Himself has forgiven us, sinners.
This verse talks about a simple principle, i.e. when we forgive someone, we come again to understand the kingdom of God in its broadness. One who finds it hard to cover others’ sins, one who finds it difficult to forgive others, he is not able to see the broadness of the work of God in His kingdom. He will continue to dwell in his own problems, his own woundedness, become vengeful and bitter. He will not be able to pray, “Your kingdom come.” He continues to dwell in the sickness of his soul, which needs to be cured.
Many people are difficult to be used maximally by God, not because he does not have enough talent, or is lacking something (money, opportunity to learn, or having experienced childhood trauma such that he can’t grow normally in the psychological sense, or others). All these are myth! One reason why one is difficult to be used freely by God is that he does not want to be molded by God, always keeps himself away from His molding. He doesn’t have an attitude of a heart that is truly surrendered to God. Wherever God leads, even to thorny paths, he rejects, he wants safer roads, wider roads, which actually lead to death.
When we pray for forgiveness, one thing that needs to happen in our lives is to forgive others—forgiving others and praying for our forgiveness, asking for God’s mercy as well as remembering that we have to forgive others also. This principle is the same as when we ask for our daily bread—just as we ask that for others, so also when we ask for forgiveness, we are asking it for others as well, who have wronged us.
Then we come to verse 13: “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Temptations in the hands of God actually become effective means to mold us. One who is never tempted must introspect himself; perhaps he is excluded from the kingdom of God that even Satan is not willing to tempt him! One who is not tempted, is difficult to grow. When we are tempted, let us see it as an opportunity to grow. Luther, in his old days, said that if he was granted to live longer, he wanted to write about temptation. For him, without it, men will find difficulties to understand the love of God and true hope.
Then why we are asked to pray, “do not lead us into temptation”? In fact, God often permits temptations to happen. Isn’t this a contradiction? We believe that this prayer is actually an expression of humility. Even though temptations are often used by God to bring one into growth, we should not challenge temptation itself as this is a reckless attitude. If one prays, “Lord, send me a heavier cross, a cup seven times bitter, so that I can grow,” this man does not know how to pray; he doesn’t measure his own strength. He thinks he is capable to bear burdens as many as possible, but actually he is at a certain measure of faith in his life. So this verse teaches that the temptation may go away. I do not want to deal with the evil one, for it is an unpleasant experience. A believer is not behaving abnormally here.
Even Lord Jesus did the same thing. He prayed that the cup may be taken from Him. He was not seeking after the cross in His life. Christ knew that His purpose of coming into the world was to go to the cross, but not that He wanted it. He was not seeking after suffering. “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” The essence is not suffering. The essence is not the cross, but obedience to the will of God. I bear my cross for it is God’s will. If it is not God’s will, I do not want to suffer. Suffering is not something to seek after. Suffering (temptations included) is something that we as human beings should indeed avoid. If possible, may God deliver us from the evil one. Evil is not enjoyable. Masochism is a psychological sickness. A masochist enjoys suffering as if the meaning of life is to suffer. Note that many man-made religions also tend to go into this direction—enjoying suffering unconsciously. Lord Jesus, the apostles, and the prophets did not act that way. When God uses us to accomplish His will, we should not run away from suffering, difficulties, but be ready to be molded by God.
This verse teaches us to pray so that God may deliver us from evil. In his commentary, Charles Hodge says that when it is written in the book of James that God does not tempt anyone, it does not mean that God does not tempt in the sense that He never leads anyone into a situation where he is tempted. Instead, God does not tempt in the sense that He does not lead anyone with the intention of letting him fall. Can God lead someone into temptation? Lord Jesus Himself was led to the wilderness to be tempted. That is why C. Hodge says that ‘God does not tempt’ means not that He cannot lead anyone into temptation, but that when temptation happens, He has no motivation to let anyone fall. It does not mean that it is impossible for God to lead anyone into temptation. To soften this concept we can use the term ‘permission from God.’ Temptation is something God sometimes permits to happen in our lives so that we may learn to depend on Him, so that we will not be self-confident and highly over-estimate ourselves, lest we fall in the temptation.
Peter failed as he denied the Lord. He failed due to his overconfidence in his own faith. He judged himself as one who was most faithful to the Lord. But actually, it was not so. The Lord had warned him—Satan was trying to sieve Peter, but Jesus had prayed for him. We can find ourselves in situations where we are being shaken, individually, or in the church as a community, or even in the global context (politically, economically, ecologically, etc.). When all these happen, what is our response before God? for what is most important is our response before God, not before the situation itself or before other people. Sufferings make us grow in God when we respond rightly before Him—not before the suffering itself, other human beings, or our own self. In the midst of temptation we should not build our own confidence in our selves, but we should realise that we are weak and fragile. Satan, throughout his experiences, knows our weakest point. He seems to be omniscience—able to predict the future, etc., for he is very experienced. But as we surrender our selves and our minds to be led by the Holy Spirit, as a preacher puts it, Satan will not have enough time to predict and estimate the possibilities ahead, for the Holy Spirit is far more dynamic than Satan and his plot.
Satan tried to make Peter, Judas, and even the Son of God, fall. But what happened was that those temptations which were permitted to happen—those falls—did actually accomplish God’s plan. Satan does not understand the cosmic drama according to God’s version; he can only read according to his own devising. Here we again praise God for He is a sovereign God. Without believing in God’s sovereignty which governs every millimetre of our lives, we will become people with no hope as we witness the reality of evil around us.
Peter, when he fell, ought to have felt a great sorrow. Yet our Lord had seen it as a part of the total plan of God in him. He had seen that after Peter fell, he would be more dependent on God and his love would be more perfected in God. He would no longer love God with his own strength; he would love his Lord by surrendering to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Before, he used to say, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.” But after he fell, he left that judgement in God’s hands. He no longer judged himself based on his own strength, but judged himself based on the omniscience of God who knows him accurately. This was the turning point in his life—temptation, and even fall. We need to understand this sentence rightly, though. Temptations, no matter how great, we have to believe that Jesus Christ is above all those. Satan’s plot is destructive, but God’s plan is far more wonderful than the destruction caused by Satan. This becomes our hope. When we walk through this life which has its difficulties, we have to continue reminding ourselves of this truth. No matter how great our sufferings, which God allows to happen in our lives, there is a plan of God far more grand. Job knew God better after going through temptations. Peter loved God more after he fell. Paul was used by God mightily to the end of his life, together with the thorn in his flesh, Satan’s messenger, that God never took away. Let us learn to enjoy, not temptations, but the grace of God that is always sufficient for us. Solus Christus, Soli Deo Gloria.
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- June 14, 2006 / 15:14