“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or your sister from your heart.” (Matthew 18:35)
Do you know the phrase “quid pro quo”? It’s Latin, and it means “this for that” — or, in other words, “Do this for me, and I’ll do that for you.”
At first glance, that may seem to be the meaning of the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12), or “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us” (Luke 11:4).
And we might say, “Wait — aren’t God’s grace and forgiveness unconditional? If we must forgive to receive forgiveness, isn’t that a quid pro quo?” No. The Bible teaches that we are all guilty before God, and we can’t earn our forgiveness. Jesus stood in our place and bore the punishment for our sins on the cross. Through Jesus, we are made right with God, an act of pure grace. This indeed is good news!
We can’t earn our forgiveness, but the way we live shows how much we are open to being changed by the Lord’s grace. As we have been forgiven, Jesus calls us to show forgiveness toward people who sin against us. If we refuse to forgive others, we are stubbornly refusing to see that we ourselves need forgiveness.
When we pray, “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive …” it’s not “this for that” but more like “this out of that.” Because we are forgiven, we can show forgiveness to others.
Father, from the depths of your mercy, you have forgiven our many sins. Help us to forgive anyone who sins against us. Amen.