Forgive Us Our Debts – The Lord’s Prayer Part 6

In January this year, the gavel fell heavily for Larry Nassar. The notorious former Olympic gymnastics team doctor was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison after being accused by over 150 women of sexual assault carried out on them as children, under the sordid guise of medical treatment. The women were permitted to address Nassar in open court. One of his victims, Rachael Denhollander, is a Christian. Her bold and clear statement of biblical justice and forgiveness was of the caliber we would expect from the articulate and theologically astute Puritans of old.

Addressing the accused directly, Denhollander declared:

In our early hearings you brought your Bible into the courtroom and you have spoken of praying for forgiveness. And so it is on that basis that I appeal to you. If you have read the Bible you carry, you know the definition of sacrificial love portrayed is of God himself loving so sacrificially that he gave up everything to pay a penalty for the sin he did not commit. By his grace, I, too, choose to love this way.

You spoke of praying for forgiveness. But Larry, if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done. It comes from repentance which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all of its utter depravity and horror without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen this courtroom today.

If the Bible you carry says it is better for a millstone to be thrown around your neck and you throw into a lake than for you to make even one child stumble. And you have damaged hundreds.

The Bible you speak carries (sic) a final judgment where all of God’s wrath and eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.

I pray you experience the soul crushing weight of guilt so that you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me — though I extend that to you as well.

Last week in our series on the Lord’s Prayer, we saw how to give God glory by asking him for our physical needs. (see also Our Father in heaven,  Hallowed be your name, and Your kingdom come).  Today we see a prayer for our greatest spiritual need: forgiveness.

Matthew 6:12-15 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors….For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Two Essential Actions To Enjoy Your Relationship With God And Man


In this prayer, the word “debt” refers to what we owe God for violating his law.

What price does sin incur?

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death [i.e. eternal death in Hell.]

Have you ever wondered why the sentence of Hell is eternal? If you sin for seventy or eighty years but are sentenced to Hell for eternity, is that fair?

Let me ask you this…

If someone assassinated a president, would justice prevail if he were jailed only for the time it took to commit the crime? Well, he spent three weeks planning, one hour waiting in the book repository (or on a grassy knoll) and one second pulling the trigger, so he should spend three weeks, one hour and one second in prison. Right?

That wouldn’t be a just penalty for treason, nor would it be any kind of deterrent for future would-be assassins. Sentences are timed according to the severity of the crime, not theduration of it. It is the same with God’s justice.

Jonathan Edwards:

…God is a being infinitely lovely, because he hath infinite excellency and beauty. . . . So that sin against God, being a violation of infinite obligations, must be a crime infinitely heinous, and so deserving infinite punishment.” 


In other words, the debt you incur against an infinitely holy God requires infinite punishment.

We either spend eternity paying the wages of our sin or we need someone with infinite righteousness to make the full payment on our behalf to wipe out our infinite debt.

When John the Baptist saw Jesus he cried out: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

The reason you need Jesus is not as a spiritual life-coach, nor as an example of love. You need Jesus to carry away your debt.

Ephesians 1:7 In him [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…

And that, my friends, is what we call the good news.

Jesus came to live the perfect life of infinite righteousness, and then exchanged it on the cross for the infinite weight of our sin which he carried in his body, and in that moment, his experience of the infinite wrath of God wiped the slate clean for all who would believe, all our sins—past, present, future—washed clean by his blood.

So make it a part of your daily prayer to confess your sin to Jesus and ask his forgiveness.



But there is a flip-side to the forgiveness coin. A person who has asked for forgiveness is a person who grants forgiveness.

This might seem at first like a condition placed on your forgiveness from God: if you want God to forgive, you must first forgive others. But that’s not what it says: Matt 6:12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Forgiveness of others is not a condition for forgiveness, it’s an assumed correlation. A person who won’t forgive is a person who has not yet experienced forgiveness.

Put more bluntly: If you don’t forgive others, you’re not a Christian.

Remember the story of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35? After telling the parable that ends with the forgiven, but unforgiving, servant ending up in jail, Jesus concludes “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matt 18:35)

Yikes! That’s why Spurgeon said,

Unless you have forgiven others you read your own death warrant when you repeat the Lord’s Prayer.”

When someone has wronged you and they ask your forgiveness, you must forgive that debt.

No matter what they have done to you, or how many times they’ve done it… the debt you owed God is way more, and he forgave you.



If you are a Christian today, this is the standard.

And if Rachael Denhollander can extend forgiveness to her abuser, like Jesus did to his executioners, and if God can extend forgiveness to you, then you have no business holding a grudge against anyone who has ever harmed you in any way.

If you are not a Christian, then you have not been forgiven in this way. But you can be today. Ask God to forgive your debts, so that you can be free to forgive your debtors.

from The Cripplegate


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