In this week’s episode, we are diving into Matthew 6:12 where Jesus teaches us in his model prayer to ask God to “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” This portion of the Lord’s Prayer contains a critical message about the importance of forgiveness in our marriages.
When we pray to be forgiven of our “debts,” it is an acknowledgement that we owe a debt to God that we could never repay on our own. Our sin has separated us from God, and no amount of personal sacrifice could bridge that gap. Jesus uses this monetary concept to illustrate our spiritual bankruptcy before a holy God. Just like an insurmountable financial debt, we need someone else to intervene and pay the penalty on our behalf.
And that is exactly what Jesus did for us through his sacrificial death on the cross. He served as the ultimate debtor, taking on the punishment we deserved and setting us free. When we pray for forgiveness, we are relying on Christ’s act of grace and love. His atonement cancels the certificate of debt that was against us.
Forgiveness is a gift we receive, not something we earn. And Ephesians 4:32 commands us to extend that same grace to others: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Jesus reinforces this in the Lord’s Prayer by adding “as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
Marriage provides frequent opportunities to practice forgiveness. We will inevitably hurt each other, intentionally or unintentionally. Maybe it’s a cutting remark made in an argument, ongoing neglect of a need, or betrayal of trust through deception or unfaithfulness. These hurts often leave us with feelings of resentment, pain and desires for retaliation. But God calls us to pardon the offenses of our spouse, releasing the debt owed between us.
Forgiveness is not denying or diminishing the wrong, but rather a conscious choice to show mercy instead of demanding payment. When we release the debt, we absorb the cost ourselves in order to grant freedom to the offender. This mirrors Christ, who absorbed the cost of our sin on the cross in order to grant us freedom.
However, forgiveness is often a process, not an emotion. We may need to make the choice to forgive again and again, with God’s help. That can be especially difficult when a spouse apologizes but proceeds to repeat the same offenses. We must continue looking to Christ’s never-ending grace and forgiveness as our model.
Ultimately, choosing forgiveness is an act of faith in God’s power to change hearts. We release the debt owed to us and trust God to transform the other person. Forgiveness that is fueled by the Holy Spirit brings incredible freedom to both people involved. We exchange bitterness for the hope of reconciliation. As we extend mercy to others in marriage, we experience God’s mercy afresh in our own hearts.