Forgive Us, As We Forgive
In Mt. 6:12 and 14 disciples are to forgive everybody. Their Father’s forgiveness should lead them to forgive the “debts” (6:12), that is, the sins (6:14), of others.
Perhaps Jesus uses the word “debts” (in 6:12) partly because one of the main sins among the families and kingdoms of earth is burdening others with heavy debts–and demanding they repay. Giving help to others is not really showing mercy if it is done to make them “indebted.” Given enough “loans,” some will never be able to repay; so the giver can demand other favors and can dominate their lives. Too many of the rich and powerful in the world remain dominant because they refuse to forgive the debts of others below them.
Some of those dominated by such debts decide to fight back; the result can be violent. Major and minor wars have been fought due to the failure to forgive–on both sides.
Disciples who forgive because their Father is forgiving will continue to be forgiven by God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God (Mt. 5:9). But if disciples do not forgive, their Father will also not forgive them. The Father’s final forgiveness is not unconditional; God’s final judgment will be unmerciful towards those who refused to forgive. Blessed only are the merciful, for they will receive mercy in the end (Mt. 5:7).
So forgiveness includes words and actions as well as attitudes: those who forgive react with gentleness (meekness), show mercy, and make peace (Mt. 5:5,7,9). More specifically, forgiveness includes not “murdering” brothers or sisters (fellow disciples) with condemning words, not divorcing wives (who displease for whatever reason), not punishing the “sinner” (no eye for an eye), and not hating (or killing) enemies (see Mt. 5:21-26,31-32,38-48). What disciples say and do to those who sin against them reveals whether they have forgiven or still harbor hatred. While children of the Father continue to speak against such sins, they do so without condemning brothers or sisters and without punishing enemies.