It’s a garbage heap grown mountain high: insults hurled in public spaces, grudges fondled and fermented, bubbling silently and waiting to ignite a devastating fire. Our blindness to our faults can only breed catastrophe. But YHWH, you have told us: “You can push back mountains! You can walk out on waves so high that they crash with destruction on anything in their path.” If we have faith, eyes on you. SO: May the flames sputter out – may your fire come down and burn to ashes this stinky dump! May eyes be opened, hearts swept clean as your Spirit-wind blows away the stench and the heap collapses, when love and humility stamp out contempt and true forgiveness changes everything! Have you found yourself in that kind of garbage heap? In many ways it describes the situation in our country. But I want to focus on such a collection of hurts in a more personal community: church, small group, workplace, or even family. I’ve been there. One such a collection of grievances, with no reconciliation worked out, lasted for several years. A person who was designated the leader in the group had a way of telling people off in front of others, corrections shouted without kindness and insults that left no room for listening to another point of view. It didn’t happen all the time, but the unresolved issues kept stacking up, destroying trust. And forgiveness was not needed, the leader felt. There finally came a moment when the leader noticed the tears in one person’s eyes after they had been impulsively dismissed verbally, before a gathering of other people. What? What did I do to them to wound them? He was completely confused, unaware of the accumulated garbage. It turned out that in his family of origin, public correction with a raised voice had been the norm for his father. He knew no other way to lead. We brought the group together to talk it through, hoping to reach understanding. Each person was a true follower of Jesus, and the following verses had been memorized at a workshop called “Sharpening Your Interpersonal Skills”: Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Col. 3:12-14 NIV) It was convicting for every one of us in the group as we reviewed that teaching. Forgiveness was asked for, on both sides, and given. The relief was palpable. We moved forward with a focus on putting those principles into practice. There were more tough moments, but they were met with renewed attention to the process of asking for forgiveness instead of piling up a smelly garbage heap. When our Master gave his disciples a model for prayer, he highlighted as a central point the need to ask for forgiveness from the Father: 9 "This, then, is how you should pray: "'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation,1 but deliver us from the evil one. (Matt. 6:8-13 NIV) The word “debts” is used here refers to our “shortcomings” or “offenses,” in other words, our sins. “The concept of sin as a “debt” owed to God has an Aramaic background (in the rabbinic literature, חוֹבָא, ḥôbāʾ, is sin construed as a debt).” They are moral debts that deserve punishment. “But when God forgives sin, he remits the penalty and drops the charge against us.” Our Father forgives us when we admit our sin and ask for his gracious forgiveness. In this model prayer, when we ask him to forgive us we say: “Please do it in the way that we forgive others”! So what if we have decided not to forgive someone? What if we have held onto the grudge, letting hurts fester and dismissing the possibility of dropping the charge against them? What if they have never admitted that they did us wrong? Should we forgive them anyway? John Stott explains it this way: “God forgives only the penitent and . . . one of the chief evidences of true penitence is a forgiving spirit. Once our eyes have been opened to see the enormity of our offence against God, the injuries which others have done to us appear by comparison extremely trifling. If, on the other hand, we have an exaggerated view of the offences of others, it proves that we have minimized our own.” Later in the discourse, Jesus used some imagery to make this clear: "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” (Matt. 7:3-4 NIV) This underlines the need for humility, for a heart that is open to seeing its own shortcomings rather than only focusing on those of the other person. This posture changes our tone of voice from inconsiderate accusation to gentleness, kindness, and a recognition of our own need for forgiveness. As Paul said to the Colossian believers, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” The Lord did that when we first came to him acknowledging our need for rescue, for forgiveness that would allow us to belong to him. Now, we are to come to him in prayer with a heart that recognizes our constant stumbling and need for his ongoing forgiveness. And we are not to forget those recurring “debts” and realize that when others are hurting us in some way, we need to be growing in maturity, becoming more like our Father who is ready to forgive. His arms are open, waiting. He already paid for all our offenses on the cross, through Jesus’ death. We just need to come and ask him to apply that payment to our “debts.” We are to have that same posture toward those who have done us wrong. Maybe we’ve tried to reconcile, but there has been a closed door. Confronting in a loving, humble way can bring about the desired result, but it isn’t an automatic cure. Nevertheless we are to keep our hearts ready, our arms open, not caressing the grudge. Maybe they asked us to pardon them, and we have, letting go of the desire to hold their error against them. This is when we can “put on love, which binds [these necessary virtues} all together in perfect unity.” (Col 3:14 NIV). Love wraps up compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, so that they do not slip away. This is the love for our neighbor that Jesus commanded us to have. “If we really know Christ as our Saviour our hearts are broken and cannot be hard, and we cannot refuse forgiveness.” An unforgiving heart will show up in avoiding the “enemy,” or telling others who have no right to be involved about their failures. In may come in touting our own lack of need for forgiveness: “We are fine.” This shows a heart unwilling to acknowledge its own propensity to do wrong. And it harms community. Once again, it is interesting that this model prayer is a communal prayer that uses the plural pronouns “we” and “us.” The only way to live out its full impact is together, in our church, study group, workplace that involves other Jesus-followers, and our family. “Father forgive us our wrongdoings, in the same way that we forgive those who have wronged us.”
 Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 1–13, vol. 33A, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1993), 150.
 John R. W. Stott and John R. W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7): Christian Counter-Culture, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 149.
 Ibid., 149-150.
 Martin Lloyd-Jones, Studies on the Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company) 348.