In the early fifth century, a monk by the name of Simeon built a pillar sixty feet high with a circumference of little more than three feet. It was on this perch that Simeon lived for thirty years, preaching to the crowds who came to hear him.
The Middle Ages offer many such severe examples in which piety was pursued in solitude rather than community. The Lord’s Prayer reminds us that the call of the Christian life is to fulfill obligations not only to God but also to one another. The Lord’s Prayer invites us to a restoration of our relationship with God, as well as calls us to restore our broken relationships with one another.
Restoration starts with forgiveness. Peter’s question at the beginning of today’s passage indicates his reluctance to forgive. He, like us, wants the letter of the law. He wants a mathematical formula by which to determine his obligations to others. And when he would receive his answer, we have every reason to believe that it would become his ironclad rationale for refusing to forgive.
Jesus shined the spotlight on this kind of human selfishness. Like the first servant, we’re begging God for forgiveness and making promises to Him that we surely can’t keep. God, in His mercy, rejects our conditions of repayment and in His mercy, completely cancels the debt. We go free.
But the experience of grace is quickly forgotten when we’re grabbing our family and friends by the shirt collar and demanding the pocket change they owe us. We accept no conditions, no excuses. It’s justice we’re after—ironically, the very justice from which we ourselves have been spared.
The Lord’s Prayer saves us from this travesty against the gospel. To be forgiven absolutely and unconditionally means that we have an imperative to forgive absolutely and unconditionally.