And forgive us our debts

Matthew 6:9-15 –  And forgive us our debts, by Rev. Colin Pretorius.

(The sixth sermon in a series on the Lord’s Prayer.)

2 October 2006. Charles Carl Roberts IV. You may not know that date or that name, but you may recognise the story when I tell you that on that date Roberts, the man with the fancy soun­ding name, walked into a small one-room school in Bart County in Pennsylvania and killed five young girls before committing suicide. In a sense there was nothing special about this killing as it was just one of many school killings over the past decade or so in the USA. But this incident nevertheless particu­larly stands out for me. And it is specifically because of the reac­tions of the parents that it is still vivid in the minds of many people. What would you have done if you were the parents of those young girls? What would you have done if your 7- or 8-year old daughter was killed by this dis­turbed man? The parents of these you girls were Amish folk, people who lived a simple, Bible-based and Bible-focused life. And although they grieved deeply for their children, they also believed it was the right thing to forgive. This is how one of them put it:[1]

I do not think there’s anybody here that wants to do anything but forgive and not only reach out to those who have suffered a loss in that way but to reach out to the family of the man who committed these acts.

Beloved congregation, this is forgiveness! And they put that forgiveness into practice that very day by going to the killer’s home where his wife and three daughters live and embraced them and com­forted them. They attended his funeral and even provided and cared for the killer’s family.[2] Forgive­ness is a defining feature of their faith – and their life. What an amazing picture of for­give­ness that is! It is a brilliant picture of lives of living forgiveness. And the part of the Lord’s Prayer we’re looking at today has to do with exactly that – forgiveness.

We’ve almost completed our journey through the Lord’s Prayer, and I trust it has been as help­ful for you as it has been for me. As we’ve worked our way through this model prayer that Jesus taught His disci­ples, we’ve seen that it has two main sections – a God-focused one and a man-focused one. We’ve also seen that the prayer has application in the present and also very much looks forward to the future. We’ve seen that there are physical aspects (such as the request for daily bread) as well as spiritual aspects.

When we look at this second-last petition we’ll see that it too is a petition of enormous conse­quence in our lives, both present and future. Last week we talked about the awesome compre­hen­sive­ness of this prayer, at how some of its richness can perhaps be found in the vibrant colours that burst from a prism and how those colours capture the rainbow of each and every one of our needs. This is also true of our need for forgiveness, as well as of our need to be a for­giving people. Yes, this part of the prayer is

  • firstly a prayer for forgiveness; and
  • secondly it is a prayer for a forgiving nature.



[2] Ann Rodgers, Nickel Mines legacy: Forgive first. Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 2007-09-30. Cited 2010-04-25.