Summary: Fourth in a series on the Lord’s Prayer, this sermon deals with forgiveness.
FORGIVING THE ANGER
Fourth in a Series on the Lord’s Prayer
"Forgive us...as we forgive others..."
In the current movie, COURAGE UNDER
FIRE, Denzel Washington plays a soldier who
makes a tragic error. At the beginning of the film,
he and his men engage the enemy. It is night, and it
is a dark. The battle is filled with bullets,
explosions, fear and courage, but more than
anything -- it is filled with confusion. At one point,
given only seconds to make a decision to fire the
guns of the tank, Denzel Washington’s character
gives the order to fire. Moments later, he realizes
the enemy his men has been firing upon are fellow
Americans. They have, in fact, made a direct hit
upon his own best friend, who dies due to friendly
Throughout the rest of the movie, Washington’s
character struggles with this tragic error. Several
times he begins to write a letter to the parents of his
best friend, but the words always fail him.
And his character is not alone. Other soldiers in
the movie have made their own tragic errors. Some
find freedom from the guilt for their mistakes
through drugs. Another finds it in anger and
bitterness. Another finds it in denial. Another
finds it in suicide.
It is not until the end of the movie that Denzel
Washington makes a pilgrimage to the home of his
friend and faces his friends mother and father and
admits to him that while their son died heroically
and in devotion to duty, death came not from
enemy fire, but from a fellow American.
The mother stands in silence, the father sits
quietly as they listen to the confession of
Washington’s character, who finishes by saying, "I
know you can never forgive me."
The father looks at the soldier and says,
Forgiveness. We need it. We long for it. We
hunger for it. And we know that sometimes it does
not come from those around us.
In the Lord’s Prayer, there is a reflection of that
hunger for forgiveness.
Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
And in the Lord’s Prayer, there is the realization
that forgiveness is something we need on three
We need to first find forgiveness from God.
In the book A FORGIVING GOD IN AN
UNFORGIVING WORLD, Ron Lee Davis retells
the true story of a priest in the Philippines. He was
a much-loved man of God, but he carried the
burden of a secret sin he had committed many
years before. He had repented, but still had no
peace, no sense of God’s forgiveness.
In his parish was a woman who deeply loved
God and who claimed to have visions in which she
spoke with Christ and he with her. The priest,
however, was skeptical. To test her he said, "The
next time you speak with Christ, I want you to ask
him what sin your priest committed while he was in
seminary." The woman agreed.
A few days later, the priest asked, "Well, did
Christ visit you in your dreams?"
"Yes, he did," she said.
"And did you ask him what sin I committed
"Well, what did he say?"
The woman smiled and said, "That’s the
most interesting thing I’ve heard him say yet. When
I asked him what you did that was so sinful, he
looked at me and said, ’I can’t remember’."
God’s forgiveness for us is complete.
When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we ask that
God would forgive us. And when he does forgive
us, it is total and complete.
This is, of course, of great comfort, but in
the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus mixes a bit of comfort
with a bit of discomfort -- because in the Lord’s
Prayer he tells us that our forgiveness from God is
closely tied to our forgiveness fro others.
The prayer says, "Forgive us our debts, as
we also have forgiven our debtors." And then
Jesus goes on to give the only exposition of any of
the phrases of this prayer, by saying "For if you
forgive men when they sin against you, your
heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you
do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not
forgive your sins."
There is, in the Bible, a continual relationship
between our ability to receive forgiveness FROM
God and our ability to give forgiveness to those
And this is the second dimension of
forgiveness found in the Lord’s Prayer. The first
dimension is our forgiveness from God. The
second is our forgiveness to others.
And forgiving others is a difficult thing to
Barbara Reynolds is a former columnist for
the USA TODAY newspaper. Several years ago,
at a time when two senators were watching their
careers crumble because of past relationships they