"Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors."
This is not first the prayer of the stranger, the one outside of the family, but is the prayer of the children. Our first forgiveness, the one that enables us to find our place at the table is not conditioned upon anything but asking and receiving. But having been forgiven such massive debt, we now have a reciprocal obligation to forgive those who are in debt to us. Forgiving is what forgiven people do.
To forgive is to offer to others the grace that has been offered to us. To have received grace without moving toward becoming grace-full is oxymoronic. We forgive out of the forgiveness we have received - to not forgive indicates that we have yet to receive forgiveness. Having been adopted into the family and given the privilege whereby we can call God, "Our Father," pushes us to learn to act like our adoptive Father - to take on the family resemblance. This is at the core of being witness - this is what those outside the family see when they look in. "Look - they love one another." Forgiveness is a mark of love. To not forgive is to miss the part of love that does not keep a record of wrongs suffered.
When we forgive, we are part of the answer to our prayer that God's will might be done. God's will is to forgive. If we do not forgive, we contradict our own longings that His will be done; we get in the way of our own prayer. To forgive is to put ourselves in the river of mercy that flows from the throne of grace.
Forgiveness is not about settling debts. It is not about balancing the books. It is not about assigning blame or guilt. It is not about making someone pay. It is not about making things fair. It is about making things right. It is about restoring relationship if at all possible. It is about what God is about.
Sometimes, forgiveness is the only way forward. The past is so tangled with shame and accusation and guilt and blame that death is the only way to untangle all the knots. Forgiveness is a way of dying. At least, if we forgive in Jesus Name. He has taught us how to forgive.