Armodoxy for Today: Reciprocity

Jesus gives a specific instruction on how to pray. He says to make it concise, that God already knows our needs and therefore pray like this: Our Father, who is in heaven, may Your name be holy. May your kingdom come, and may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread and forgive us the wrong we have done as we forgive those who have done us wrong. And keep us away from temptation and deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:9-13)

Of all the requests that we make in that short prayer, Jesus emphasizes forgiveness by adding to the prayer, For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

At one point, Peter asks him “How often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” and Jesus replies, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21-22)

And he shares a parable in which a wealthy man, in this case a king, who wants to settle his accounts. A servant of his owed him $10,000 and was unable to pay his debt. The king ordered a repayment plan that would put severe hardship on him, his wife and his children. The man, fell at the king’s feet and begged him to be patient and he would take care of the debt. The king was so filled with compassion that he forgave the servant his debt.

In turn, the man went out and found a fellow servant who owed him a much smaller amount, about $100, and demanded – even manhandled him – “Pay me what you owe!” The person fell to his knees and begged the man to be patient and promised to pay the debt soon. Instead of showing even a small bit of compassion, he ordered the person be thrown into prison until he should pay the debt.

When others saw what had happened, they reported this the king. The king called him and said, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” In his anger, the king had the servant delivered to torturers until he should pay all that was due.

Jesus summarizes the parable by saying, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Matthew 18:23-35)

Forgiveness is the cornerstone of Armodoxy. Understanding, compassion and love are all built upon the foundation of forgiveness. It is so essential to the understanding of Christianity that Jesus reiterates it at the end of the “Our Father” prayer and shares this parable asking us to put our feet in the shoes of others. Don’t let the use of personalities, such as kings and servants, file this story under irrelevant, understand that we all fall into the trap of the servant. God has forgiven us our trespasses. He has forgiven the greatest debt we hold. We start with a clean slate at baptism and each opportunity to commune with Christ. Accordingly, we don’t have the right not to forgive others.

As the world comes to terms with the wars and abandoned diplomacy, we build a life of prayer which begins with forgiveness, both ours and those of others who have hurt us.

Let us pray, Lord our God, we ask that you heal the wounds and the ills of this world. You stepped out of the comfort of Heaven to place your feet in the shoes of humanity. You forgave without reservation. In that spirit, help me to understand the pain and struggle of my fellow human being, to forgive those who have hurt me. Keep your example ever before my eyes. Amen.

Cover photo: 4/24/2005

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