Matthew 6:9-15 (NIV)
“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
It is interesting that the only part of the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus clarifies is the section on forgiveness. Not God’s will, not daily bread, not temptation – just forgiveness. It is the only prayer that is answered based on our success in doing the same for others. Jesus is clearly speaking to the human propensity for holding a grudge that keeps us in our little kingdom-of-me instead of the Kingdom of God.
We have been doing some gardening behind the house the last few years and one thing is abundantly clear: you must tend the garden every day. We learned this by watching horn worms devastate our tomato plants. We took this to heart when weeds became so entangled with cucumber plants it was hard to tell them apart. If we wanted our garden to bear fruit in season, we had to be disciplined everyday in its care and maintenance.
Condemnation, anger, arrogance and even hate can take root in our hearts if we do not tend the soil each day. God wants fertile ground for the seeds of “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness (and) self-control.” If we allow offenses to go unforgiven, our hearts are full of weeds that will not allow the fruitfulness God desires. The ill-will we hold toward those we think have hurt us is like a worm eating at the vine that keeps us abiding in God.
Forgiveness is a daily discipline like weeding the garden. With God’s help, we can pull out the bitter roots and free up our hearts for the work of the Spirit. Forgiveness breaks the chains of judgment, pride and hate that can choke our growth in the Lord. Forgiveness gives us eyes to see the wormy thoughts that eat away at the work of the Holy Spirit. This is one of the ways we remain present in our walk with God. It allows us to have an attitude toward others that reflects the attitude our heavenly Father has toward us:
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:22-23
Is your compassion renewed each morning? Do you begin each day by wiping the slate clean for others? Maybe it is time to weed the soil of a heart that is broken and weary from the fruitless toil of anger and pain. Maybe it is the season to prepare for new seeds to be planted, nurtured and watered with the work of the Holy Spirit. Maybe today you can pull up one of those especially deep-rooted weeds that is keeping you from moving forward. Maybe today is the day to move from being forgiven to being forgiving.