I’ve been quite into golf for many years now. I discovered it in my mid to late twenties and have been hooked ever since. Many people say that golf is not a game you perfect, but a game you discover and try and figure out your hole life. Out of the many things I learned about this sport, one of my favourites might be what they call ‘a mulligan’. A mulligan is a redo, a do over, a grace shot. If you’ve hit your ball into the woods or into the water, your partner may say, ‘take another shot, we’ll give you a mulligan’. They are some of the sweetest words you’ll hear on a golf course; because of course you’ll hear many not so sweet words (insert wink and a smile).
Imagine you could use a mulligan in real life? How wonderful would that be? As a police officer is about to write you a ticket you might say, ‘I think I’m going to take a mulligan on that one…I’ll see you another time, have a great day.’ After you’ve said something completely foolish you might say, ‘Mulligan. I’m taking a mulligan on that one. Pretend I didn’t say it, here’s what I really wanted to say.’ You might want a mulligan for a whole season of your life, a few months, a few years maybe. You just wish you could turn back the clock, address the situation differently, and move towards a much better experience or result.
Believe it or not, there is such a thing in life. Forgiveness. That’s right, forgiveness is what God offers to remove our wrongs doings and mess ups. King David in Psalm 103 actually describes it like this, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” You mean God can take my wrongs…so far away…and make it like I’ve never even done them? That’s what forgiveness is – much better than a mulligan in golf. Golf is a game – Life is real.
We have been journeying through the Lord’s Prayer and have arrived at the point where Jesus tells us that we can ask for forgiveness. We’ve addressed God as Father, we’ve invited God’s Kingdom and will to be present among us, we’ve asked for something as basic as bread, and now we are invited to ask for forgiveness.
Forgive us our sins…
If we never ask for forgiveness when we pray, then something is either off with our hearts or we have forgotten a very important reality, we are broken people. This phrase in this prayer acknowledges one very important thing: SIN exists, in the world, and in us.
It might be easy to say that sin exists in the world. Watch the news, read the paper, see the terror and the violence and the injustice. Sin, wrong doing, selfish behaviour, it’s all there. But what about in me. Do I have what it takes to identify that sin is in me? Because it is. Paul says, in Romans 3, ‘we have ALL sinned’ ‘we have all done wrong’. David says in Psalm 51 that we are prone wander from the God we love.
NT Wright said, “we must beware of perceiving a world where forgiveness isn’t necessary”. That is a world where no one admits their wrongs and identifies that we need fixing – we’re broken.
E. Peterson says that Sin Kills; it kills relationships, it kills the soul intimacy that is inherent in our image of God, it kills what had potential for growth and nutrition. Some say it wastes what is good, what had life. But Forgiveness is Resurrection. Life from the dead. Forgiveness redeems what sin wastes.
Jesus says, ‘Forgive us our sins’ because he knows that we are sinners in need of forgiveness.
As we forgive those who have sinned against us…
Jesus of course never lets us off the hook that easy. When you acknowledge what’s wrong in you, what you need forgiveness for, and are appreciative of what God has done for you, Jesus says, your automatic response must be to forgive those who sin against you. But Jesus, can’t I just sit here for a while and bask in my forgiveness?
Jesus goes into more detail on this after the prayer. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Paul reiterates this in Colossians 3:13, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you…Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.”
We who pray this are called to be the ones who live it. The church lives this. We’ve got to be a forgiveness-of-sins people. Forgiven people, forgiving others. If we don’t forgive others, it’s like we’re selfishly saying, “I want it all for me”. “I want to hoard this gift of mercy and grace”.
There are always two steps in praying for forgiveness: 1) Ask for grace, and 2) Extend that grace to others. It’s hard to do. It’s easier to host a charity event, or feed the poor, or raise money for world vision, but forgive someone who wronged you – no way, that’s too hard. Jesus’ response to that was his death on the cross. He did what only he could do so that we could receive forgiveness. He simply asks us to pay that selfless act of love forward.
Asking for forgiveness is like going to your Doctor. You know something’s not right, but in that moment you don’t really tell her what’s wrong. The Doctor can’t help you unless you’re honest about your condition. That’s why confession is important.
The church and the world are full of people who need do-overs…mulligans. We’re in luck, because God is in the business of mercy, grace and forgiveness.
Jesus says, when you pray, confess what’s up, what’s wrong…ask for forgiveness. And then, after you’ve been overwhelmed with God’s great forgiveness in your life, extend that to others around you – to those who’ve wronged you.
Life’s richest blessing comes from being forgiven and being willing to forgive.
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small(er) group questions: (short vide recap)
Was there anything this week that you wish you could do over? Don’t give us your biggest secrets, but perhaps a small regret? Did you pray the words of Cher, “If I could turn back time”?
Forgiveness is a powerful and profound thing to wrap your mind around. Read Psalm 103:8-12 and talk about how the Psalmist describes forgiveness?
Do you find yourself identifying the wrongs of others while neglecting to see the wrongs you’ve been involved in? Why is it so much easier to find fault in others and not in ourselves?
(there might be more on this though next week)
How often to you include Jesus’ words in your prayers? Forgive us our sins? Why do you think confession and forgiveness are so important to prayer and to our walk of faith?
Why would Jesus’ second part to this prayer be so difficult – forgive others? Or as Paul put it in Colossians 3:13, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you…Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.”
What do you think it means to be forgiveness-of-sins kind of people?