“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12 NIV)
Payback. Retribution. We have an urge to dish it out when we’ve been wronged. There’s a desire to even the scales of justice. “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” as the Old Testament scripture says.
Interesting thing about the “eye for an eye” instruction is that it actually limits the payback and retribution urge. Human history says that we’re not usually content with evening the scales. We want to punch back and punch harder. We feel like an eye and a tooth for an eye.
Forgiveness is hard. It is hard because a real wrong has been done. But the alternative is escalation. Payback begetting payback begetting yet more payback. We see this at the largest scale of nations and at the smallest scale of individuals.
Forgiveness lays down claims to payback and forsakes retribution. In doing so, it opens a door to reconciliation and restored relationship.
In the prayer Jesus taught, we learn to pray for forgiveness and to remember prayerfully to be forgiving people. We are praying ourselves into the only action that can break the cycle of violence or animosity or bitterness or rage: forgiveness.
Prayer: God, open me to the hard work of forgiveness in order to make possible a halt to hostility and a path to reconciliation. Thank you for your forgiveness and grace in Jesus Christ. Amen.