We continue with the fourth and the fifth petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, which focus on us. “Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” I love how Martin Luther explains “our daily bread” that it is everything that we need: food, drink, shelter, clothing, family, friends, good government, good weather, peace, health, decency, honor--all that we need. God is a generous God and gives us more than what we need. I think where we run into trouble is when my wants become needs and my wants limit others from reaching their needs. On top of that, not all my wants are good for me.
For me this petition runs into the next, “forgive us our sins,” because often my sin comes into play when I put things ahead of people; when I put my wants ahead of my neighbor’s needs or in the way of my relationship with my neighbor. In preschool, we are taught to share. But, for many of us, it takes a good portion--if not all--our lifetime to learn to do this.
As I look at the Lord’s Prayer, it seems as if God’s forgiveness is conditional on our forgiveness. This bothered me for years. My eyes were opened to a better understanding of this petition when a friend told me the story about forgiving her abusive father years after his death. She told me that when she did this, a burden was lifted from her. It was as if she was no longer controlled by the anger and hurt brought on by her father’s actions. I then started to reflect on my own life, the number of times my hurt, my anger, and my sense of injustice kept me up at night. When I forgave someone, that burden was lifted from me. Now, this doesn’t mean that we don’t hold people accountable. We do. There continues to be consequences for sinful behavior.
Reflecting on forgiveness, I also started thinking about our relationship with God, that God sent the Son into the world to heal the brokenness between us. God wants to be in a relationship with us. So not only is the forgiveness and life in Christ a gift to us, it's a gift to God’s very self. God so much wants to walk in the garden with us, but our sin separates us, breaks our relationship with God. In the forgiveness of Christ, that relationship is healed. Just as a burden of separation from others affects us, the burden of separation from humanity affects God. So, Christ came into the world to remove that burden, to remove that separation, to remove sin and death forever. This is truly Good News!