This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)
5-13 “And then, when you pray, don’t be like the play-actors. They love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at street-corners so that people may see them at it. Believe me, they have had all the reward they are going to get. But when you pray, go into your own room, shut your door and pray to your Father privately. Your Father who sees all private things will reward you. And when you pray don’t rattle off long prayers like the pagans who think they will be heard because they use so many words. Don’t be like them. After all, God, who is your Father, knows your needs before you ask him. Pray then like this—‘Our Heavenly Father, may your name be honoured; May your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day the bread we need, Forgive us what we owe to you, as we have also forgiven those who owe anything to us. Keep us clear of temptation, and save us from evil’.”
14-15 “For if you forgive other people their failures, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you will not forgive other people, neither will your Heavenly Father forgive you your failures.”
I have written at greater length about the Prayer of Jesus in Bible Blog 1001, but here today I want to highlight the petition about forgiveness. Is it true that God will not forgive us if we don’t forgive others? Yes it is. God will still want to forgive us as our hard hearts cannot change his goodness. But WE WILL BE UNABLE TO RECEIVE HIS FORGIVENESS, because if we are not forgiving people we will not understand the price of what we’re being offered. We will think, “God will forgive, that’s his trade,” and so reject the precious gift. The key is the generosity of God who freely forgives. The word “owe” is important as signifying the monetary and moral accountancy by which many people live. God keeps no ledger of our sins and failures. The divine generosity evident in the gift of life is evident also in his neglect of what is owed to him and his desire that human beings should live in a climate of generosity.
There is nevertheless a terrible justice in God’s forgiveness: acceptance of it cannot be faked; either we recognise our need for it or we don’t; and if we don’t, we cannot be forgiven. God will not force forgiveness down our unwilling throats. In Dante’s Divine Comedy those who are in hell want to be there.
The beginnings of a climate of generosity are evident this week in the cooperation of great nations for the common good, as regards Syria and for peace in the middle East. Doubtless much of this is fuelled by self-interest, but once such a climate prevails, it may allow more good to happen than people expect. It would therefore be helpful if all sides recognised their need for each other’s forgiveness. Doubtless Russia, China and Iran should recognise their callous disregard the rights of their citizens. But the USA should recognise its drone terrorism, its indulgence of Israeli atrocities, and its ridiculous refusal of relationship with Iran. Mutual recognition of past failures can be assisted by mutual generosity and can contribute to its growth.
Jesus’ words were meant for his disciples but they can be fruitful for international politics as well.