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Devotion for February 19, 2007

Devotions

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.

Apply the Word

Forgiveness tells someone who has offended us that he no longer owes us anything. There are no conditions upon the forgiveness that resembles the forgiveness of Christ Jesus for His followers. From whom are you withholding forgiveness? Ask God to grant you the willingness and ability to forgive completely and unconditionally. Sometimes the relationship isn’t fully restored, even when we have extended forgiveness, but if we forgive, we’ve done what God has required of us.

BY Jennifer Michel

Jen Pollock Michel is a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog. Her first book, Teach us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith, is published by InterVarsity Press. Jen earned her BA in French from Wheaton College and her MA in Literature from Northwestern University. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and five children, and serves on staff at Grace Toronto Church.

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